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Future Volvos will be watching – to keep you safe

Volvo cameras and sensors

In 1984, American singer Rockwell sang about how he felt like somebody was watching him. “Tell me is it just a dream?” he asked. Well, Kennedy William Gordy, aka Rockwell, thanks to news from Volvo, we can reveal that it was far from a dream. Volvo will be watching you. Bang goes your privacy.

As part of its ambitions to end fatalities in its cars, Volvo is addressing the issues of intoxication and distraction. By installing in-car cameras and sensors that monitor the driver, the company believes it can intervene if there’s a risk of an accident leading to serious injury or death.

Volvo points to figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showing that almost 30 percent of traffic fatalities in vehicles in 2017 involved intoxicated drivers.

If the system detects a problem – maybe through a lack of steering input, weaving across lanes or eyes off the road – it could limit the car’s speed, alert the Volvo On Call assistance service or, as a last resort, bring the car to a stop.

Avoiding accidents altogether 

“When it comes to safety, our aim is to avoid accidents altogether rather than limit the impact when an accident is imminent and unavoidable,” says Henrik Green, senior vice president, research and development at Volvo Cars. “In this case, cameras will monitor for behaviour that may lead to serious injury or death.”

Volvo tackles intoxication

The introduction of the cameras will start on the next generation of Volvo’s scalable SPA2 vehicle platform in the early 2020s, with details of the cameras and their positioning to follow at a later stage.

This news comes a couple of weeks after Volvo’s announcement that future cars will be limited to 112mph as part of its Vision 2020 initiative. Speeding, intoxication and distraction are Volvo’s primary areas of concern for traffic safety.

“There are many accidents that occur as a result of intoxicated drivers,” says Trent Victor, professor of driver behaviour at Volvo Cars. “Some people still believe that they can drive after having had a drink, and that this will not affect their capabilities. We want to ensure that people are not put in danger as a result of intoxication.”

Meet Chris, your new in-car digital assistant

Chris in-car digital assistant

Introducing Chris: a new digital assistant for drivers. According to German Autolabs, the Berlin-based startup behind the tech, this is the world’s first voice AI-enabled digital assistant for in-car use. And it’s now available in the UK on Amazon for £299.

Say “Hey Chris” and the windscreen-mounted device will help you to make and receive calls, send a text or a WhatsApp message, get directions and play music. It works in any vehicle, regardless of age and model, and can even work offline, giving it an edge over Siri and Google Assistant.

Chris is initially available for Android users, but an iOS release is planned for later in 2019.

Chris in-car digital call

It’s a little like Alexa Echo or Google Home, but Chris can also be operated using gesture control, making it easy to skip through music tracks or a list of contacts. Just be aware that oncoming drivers and pedestrians might think you’re waving at them, rather than Chris.

The company behind Chris says it works in a noisy in-car environment, which will be music to the ears of drivers with young children on board, and while the system has its own speaker, it’s possible to play music on your car stereo using an FM transmitter.

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

For now, Chris only speaks and understands German and English, although more languages will be added at a later date. As for accents, a company spokesperson said: “We would describe Chris as ‘accent-robust’.

“Our development team, who have been testing Chris from the start, come from all over the world, and many speak English or German with their own accents. In our experience, Chris can understand people who speak with an accent (within reason).”

‘Within reason’ – we suspect a few British drivers will be putting Chris to the test… 

It’s a cool thing that will keep you legal behind the wheel, but you may be wondering why the digital assistant is called Chris. Well, St Christopher is the patron saint of safe travelling and the company wanted a name that could work for two genders: Chris could be Christopher or Christine.

What you’ll need to use Chris

  • A Bluetooth-enabled smartphone
  • Android 7.1.1 ‘Nougat’ or higher
  • 12V socket or USB port
  • Online connection for full functionality

The Chris box contains

  • 1 x Chris
  • 1 x suction cup mount
  • 6 x cable holder
  • 1 x 3.6m micro USB cable
  • 1 x 12v dual USB charger
  • 1 x quick start guide

Where to buy Chris

Chris is available from Amazon for £299

Deutsch marques: the world’s most valuable car brands

Valuable car brands

Germany remains the dominant force in the car industry, according to a recent report published by Brand Finance. The independent consultancy defines a brand as a “marketing-related intangible asset”, and measures its performance relative to its competitors. Each brand is given a valuation based on a net economic benefit that a brand owner could achieve by licensing the brand in the open market. Here, we present the top 10 most valuable car brands, with the results in reverse order.

10. Volvo – $13.8 billion (£10.5 billion)

Valuable car brands

Thanks to a seemingly endless supply of awards and a number of high-profile safety announcements, Volvo is rarely out of the news. These factors, along with a growing range of SUVs, has seen the Swedish company climb two places to 10th, with the brand valuation up nine percent to $13.8 billion.

In 2018, Volvo set a new global sales record, breaking the 600,000 sales milestone for the first time since the company was founded in 1927. Sales were up 12.4 percent to 642,253 units, spearheaded by a growing demand for its SUVs, namely the XC40, XC60 and XC90.

9. Nissan – $18.8 billion (£14.3 billion)

Valuable car brands

One of three Japanese brands to appear in the top 10, Nissan’s brand is valued at $18.75 billion by Brand Finance. The manufacturer has slumped from sixth in 2018 to ninth in 2019, with the valuation down 3.2 percent.

Nissan’s portfolio includes the Micra (pictured), along with big players such as the Qashqai, Juke and Leaf electric car. Indeed, the Leaf recently hit 400,000 sales – the first EV to reach this milestone.

8. Ford – $18.8 billion (£14.3 billion)

Valuable car brands

Ford is just ahead of Nissan with a brand valuation of $18.77 billion. This represents an increase of 3.3 percent, although the US giant remains in eighth place. Earlier this year, Ford announced a new partnership with Volkswagen, with the two companies intending to develop commercial vans and medium-size pick-ups for global markets.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett said: “Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society. It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility.”

7. Audi – $19.6 billion (£14.9 billion)

Valuable car brands

Five out of the remaining seven brands are German, highlighting the dominance of this automotive powerhouse. Alex Haigh, Brand Finance director, said: “There is no denying the dominance of German auto brands amongst the world’s ten most valuable this year. The combination of their trusted and long-standing heritage, a commitment to diversification, innovation and after sales services really sets these German brands apart from the rest.”

It’s not as though the German companies are stagnating. Audi, for example, has moved up from ninth to seventh, with the brand valuation rising 31.4 percent. This isn’t the biggest brand increase; Roewe and Peterbilt rose 137.5 percent and 113.2 percent respectively, with Maserati (73.4 percent), Skoda (68.1 percent) and McLaren (66.3 percent) also on the up.

6. Honda – $25.7 billion (£19.5 billion)

Valuable car brands

Honda drops one place to sixth, although the brand valuation is up 16.3 percent. Brand Finance says innovation is key, pointing to the variety of cars on offer and the emerging electric vehicle sector. Honda’s new EV is well placed to take advantage of the expected rise in demand for electric vehicles.

Honda used the Geneva Motor Show to announced that it intends to make 100 percent of its European automobile sales electrified by 2025. In January, Phil Webb, head of car at Honda UK, had said: “The CR-V hybrid is the first step in achieving our objective of electrified powertrains accounting for two-thirds of our European sales by 2025.” The change in percentage highlights the growing demand for electrification.

5. Porsche – $29.3 billion (£22.3 billion)

Valuable car brands

In 2018, Porsche was valued at £19.1 billion. Twelve months later, Brand Finance has placed a $29.3 billion valuation on the brand – an increase of 54 percent. This is the largest increase in the top 10, and the eighth best overall.

According to Brand Finance, “Porsche has benefitted from the rise in popularity of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and China’s growing appetite for high-performance sports cars, which is the second biggest market for luxury cars after the US.”

4. BMW – $40.5 billion (£30.8 billion)

Valuable car brands

BMW has slipped out of the top three, with its brand valuation down three percent to $40.5 billion. There’s only one answer to this problem: BMW has to make its front grilles even larger…

This is a big year for BMW, with the launch of some significant new cars, including the new 3 Series, Z4 sports car, facelifted 7 Series, X7 SUV and 8 Series. Will it reclaim a top three position in 2020?

3. Volkswagen – $41.7 billion (£31.7 billion)

Valuable car brands

Volkswagen takes advantage of BMW’s slump by moving into the top three. Its brand is valued at $41.7 billion – an increase of three percent. It helps when you have the Golf in your portfolio, which remains one of the best selling and most recognisable cars in the world.

Brand Finance said: “Volkswagen has impressed with its range of electric and hybrid vehicles and aims to convert all of its factories in preparation of electric car production by 2020. The brand is planning to produce 100,000 I.D. electric cars in the first year of operation.”

2. Toyota – $52.3 billion (£39.7 billion)

Valuable car brands

Only one company is seemingly capable of disrupting the German dominance of the Brand Finance report: Toyota. The Japanese brand is valued at $52.3 billion, which represents a rise of 20 percent.

But Brand Finance isn’t glowing in its assessment of Toyota, arguing that it has “grown on the back of a high margin business [but] has been criticised for not seizing the electric car revolution early enough.”

1. Mercedes-Benz – $60.4 billion (£45.9 billion)

Valuable car brands

Beeindruckend! In 2018, the Mercedes-Benz brand was valued at a little under $48 billion. Today, Brand Finance has revised its assessment, edging the German giant over the $60 billion mark.

“Over the last year, Mercedes has continued to grow its global footprint and popularity in emerging markets. Its sales in China, for example, have risen by 11.7 percent to a record 600,000 units for 2018. As well as Mercedes’ esteemed reputation for quality and style, the brand is highly regarded for its innovative approach, having recently launched its electric EQ range,” said Brand Finance.

2019 Hyundai Tucson N Line Project Art Car

Hyundai makes a bold statement with unique Tucson N Line art car

2019 Hyundai Tucson N Line Project Art Car

Hyundai has enlisted the help of renowned artist Andreas Preis to create a special one-off edition of the Tucson.

Designed to celebrate the launch of the sporty N Line version of the popular SUV, the ‘Drive a Statement’ project has seen it gain a radical makeover.

The Korean brand has made major steps in recent years to appeal to performance enthusiasts. Motorsport activities have also seen the company competing in the World Rally Championship, along with entries into touring car racing.

2019 Hyundai Tucson N Line Project Art CarBavarian-born Preis has worked with a number of global brands, including Adidas, Nike, Microsoft and Samsung.

His work typically focuses on creating elaborate and detailed murals, along with illustrations and live paintings. With examples of his art having previously adorned everything from books to buildings, making a SUV look impressive was just another day at the office.

Or three days in the studio, to be exact. Having come up with a design, Andreas then spent an incredible 72 hours painting the Tucson N Line… by hand!

2019 Hyundai Tucson N Line Project Art CarThe design itself was a nod to the racing cars used in the WRC and TCR championships, along with the features seen on the performance i30 N and Veloster N machines.

Preis is said to have incorporated elements of chicanes, corners, and flags into the special Tucson, creating a patchwork mural of racing inspiration.

Hyundai’s signature Performance Blue paint option also makes an appearance, with Andreas particularly keen to make the Tucson N Line appear to be going fast, even when parked up.

2019 Hyundai Tucson N Line Project Art CarEngine Red is the main hue hiding beneath the artwork, with the wider N Line palette of black and white also involved. Preis claims to have paid particular attention to highlighting the gloss black trim used for the side mirrors, rear spoiler, and headlight bezel on the Tucson N Line.

The new Tucson N Line is the first SUV in the Hyundai range to be given the overtly sporting trim level.

Other changes include a dark mesh front grille, surrounded by dark chrome trim, along with dark 19-inch alloy wheels. Stiffer suspension, and changes to the power steering system, are said to make the N Line more engaging to drive.

2019 Hyundai Tucson N Line Project Art CarWith his work on the Tucson art car finished, Preis seems proud of his efforts, noting that it is a rare experience to “get to create an artwork where a complete car is the canvas.”

Andreas-Christoph Hofmann, VP of marketing at Hyundai Motor Europe, is also impressed, saying the work by Preis “fits perfectly with our claim that you are driving a statement” and that the Hyundai will be “displaying this unique car at events around Europe.”

‘Hitler bomber’ Bentley found in garage after 30 years

Hitler Bomber Bentley

A 1936 Bentley 4.5-Litre Vanden Plas Tourer previously owned by former RAF pilot Charles Blackman has sold at auction for £454,250 at the H&H Classics sale at Duxford.

It last sold for £260 in 1952 and has spent the last 30 years locked up at Mr Blackman’s home in Stockport. But the Bentley was unearthed following the death of the former pilot and sold as part of his estate.

Despite being in a ‘barn-find’ condition, the Bentley fetched more than double the pre-auction estimate of between £150,000 and £200,000, helped in no small part by the fact that it’s one of only six W.O. Bentley 4.5-Litre cars assembled by the service department using new old stock parts in 1936.

Mr Blackman served in the RAF 500 Squadron and took part in the bombing of Hitler’s mountain retreat in Bavaria in April 1945. In the same month, he made emergency food drops on the German/Dutch border where people were facing famine.

RAF 550 Squadron

RAF 550 Squadron, with Flight Sargent Blackman pictured centre

He bought the Bentley in 1952 and drove it for 36 years before age caught up with him and the car was taken off the road. It remained in his garage ever since.

Damian Jones, head of sales at H&H Classics said: “This is the ultimate Bentley ‘barn-find’ in the marque’s centenary year. It is a really wonderful discovery for all fans of the marque made even more special in the make’s 100th birthday year.

“It sold last time for just £260 so this time we believed it would do a thousand times better and it did not disappoint.”

1936 Bentley 4.5-Litre Vanden Plas Tourer

He added: “This Bentley is so unusual because it was assembled in the mid 1930s using a chassis and mechanical parts which dated from no later than 1931.”

“Only the body was freshly made when the car was assembled and sold as a new car in 1936. The W.O. Bentleys made from 1919 to 1931 are far more valuable than the Derby Bentleys which followed from 1933 to 1940. The car was accepted as a W.O. Bentley because its chassis and mechanicals were all made during the W.O. era.”

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

Porsche Cayenne Coupe revealed: the acceptable alternative to a BMW X6

Porsche Cayenne CoupeThe Porsche Cayenne Coupe is another addition to the burgeoning coupe-SUV sector. It aims to be more focused than a Mercedes-AMG GLE Coupe and less visually offensive than a BMW X6. It is on sale in the UK now, with prices starting from £62,129.

Derived from the third-generation Cayenne five-door, the Cayenne Coupe keeps the same rear doors but grafts on an entirely new rear section. It is more curvaceous and, with the roofline falling away towards the rear, “more dynamic,” said Porsche styling VP Michael Mauer.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

The looks “position it as the most sporting-looking model in the market segment,” he explained.

Overall, it is 20mm lower, and both the windscreen and A-pillar are shallower than a normal Cayenne five-door. This is a comprehensive, no-expense-spared restyling job.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

Rear doors are redesigned to blend in with both the roofline and rear wheelarches. The latter have swollen by 18mm, giving the car a much more muscular stance.

There’s a visual trick here, too: the rear number plate has been moved down into the rear bumper, making it seem lower to the ground.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

The Cayenne Coupe also has not one, but two rear spoilers. A fixed roof spoiler sits above a new adaptive spoiler positioned on the leading edge of the bootlid.

It equips the car with active aerodynamics – or, in Porsche parlance, Porsche Active Aerodynamics: PAA.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

As on 911 coupes, the spoiler extends at speed, stretching out an ample 135mm at speeds of 56mph and above, reducing rear-end lift without affecting fuel consumption at slower speeds. We assume there’s an override button for inner city posing.

There are two choices of roof as well: a 2.16 square metre panoramic fixed glass roof or optional contoured carbon fibre as pictured here. Yes, you have seen it before: it’s like the one on the 911 GT3 RS.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

The carbon roof comes as part of a series of three ‘lightweight sports packages’.

These also throw in lightweight 22-inch GT Design alloys, carbon and Alcantara interior styling, plus retro-style seat centres in classic checked fabric.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

Porsche says the Cayenne Coupe is a four-seater, with chunky sports seats in the front and bucket-style seats in the rear.

Passengers sit 30mm lower in the back, so there’s still ample headroom despite the plunging roof.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

Behind is a 625-litre boot, which expands to 1,540 litres with the rear seats folded.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

Engines? Pick from a 340 horsepower 3.0-litre V6 turbo in the base Cayenne Coupe, or a 550hp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 in the Cayenne Turbo Coupe.

The base car does 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds, or 5.9 seconds if you go for one of the lightweight packages (yes – it really does have an effect). Top speed is 150mph, CO2 emissions are 212-215g/km and fuel economy is 22.2-23.9mpg.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

The Cayenne Turbo Coupe does 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds, will blastto 177mph, chews through fuel at a rate of 20.2-20.8mpg, and emits 258-261g/km CO2 (all WLTP figures).

Porsche is taking orders for the new Cayenne Coupe now, with first deliveries expected at the end of May. The V6 is priced at £62,129, with the Cayenne Turbo Coupe marking quite a jump to £104,729.

Naturally, both are well equipped: 20-inch alloys, front and rear Park Assist, reversing camera, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and the Sport Chrono Package are all standard. And you can, of course, spend much, much more once you hit the options list…

1 in 5 Londoners ‘have no choice but to own a car’

Own a car in London

One in five Londoners feel they have no choice but to own a car to get around, according to figures released by London Assembly Green Party Member, Caroline Russell.

This flies in the face of the Mayor of London’s ambitious plan to persuade Londoners to reduce car use, with Sadiq Khan seeking to reduce the capital’s dependency on the automobile. In 2017, the Mayor said he wanted 80 percent of journeys to be made using public transport, cycling or walking, with the aim of reducing car journeys in London by three million a day by 2041.

But while the one in five figure appears to be rather stark for central London, the picture is even worse in outer London, where 25 percent of people say they feel ‘forced’ into car ownership.

Caroline Russell said: “Being forced to have the extra expense of a car because you’re left without an alternative should be an alarm bell to the Mayor who is encouraging Londoners to ditch dirty vehicles – but they need convenient and close public transport to use instead. 

“For people who feel they have no other option than to own and run a car is a sad situation. For the Mayor to reach his target for journeys made by public transport, walking or cycling – he needs to help these Londoners first.

Cycling in London

“Walking and cycling are the best ways to travel – I use a bike to get to work every day and I’d like every Londoner to have this option. Much more work needs to be done to reduce road danger and make the streets pleasant and safe for people to walk and cycle.

“Outer London has the biggest potential for people choosing other ways to travel instead of their cars – the Transport Committee has continually recommended improvements to the bus network in outer London but progress is painfully slow.”

Last year, Caroline Russell published a damning assessment of the Mayor’s pledges, claiming his plan to “triple protect cycle lanes” and deliver “a mini-Holland for every London borough that wants one” was showing “little sign of being met”.

One Londoner told Caroline: “To be honest, I don’t think the Mayor is doing anything on anything, not just cycling. We have a national problem where drivers get inside their metal box and believe that everyone should get out of their way.”

Car tax crackdown: 9,000 clamped in a month

car tax crackdown

The DVLA has clamped nearly 9,000 vehicles since it launched a campaign to crack down on untaxed vehicles at the end of February.

An enforcement team is targeting the 11 locations where vehicle tax evasion is highest, with London, Northern Ireland, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow named as five of the country’s hotspots.

Bethan Beasley, DVLA’s senior leader of enforcement partnerships, said: “As well as the hard work we’re doing out on the roads every day, we’re running local advertising in each of the regions including radio, printed publications, poster sites, websites and on social media.

“All of these activities together are designed to make the driving public think again if they’re considering not taxing their vehicle.”

The DVLA is using a giant clamp to ram home the message, parking a Volkswagen Golf in city or town centres to gauge the reaction from the general public. One member of the public said: “Pay your tax – it’s as simple as that. There’s no excuse is there, really?”

“Alexa, is my car taxed?”

It really is that easy. A vehicle can be taxed online 24 hours a day, and you can even use Amazon Alexa or Google Home to check if your vehicle tax is up to date.

Last year, the DVLA took enforcement action on around 464,000 vehicles in the 11 tax evasion hotspots. Punishments include financial penalties, court action, clamping and the loss of a car.

Bloodhound LSR

Bloodhound land-speed record project moves to new home

Bloodhound LSRIt looks like full-speed ahead for the Bloodhound land-speed record (LSR) attempt, with the news that the company has opened new headquarters in Gloucestershire.

This follows a disastrous end to 2018, with the project plunging into administration in October, before being axed in December when attempts to find a backer appeared to reach a dead end. But thanks to a Yorkshire-based investor called Ian Warhurst, the 1,000mph car was given an 11th-hour reprieve.

Going under a new name of Bloodhound LSR, the programme has been completely rebranded, with the famous car given a new red and white livery. A freshly assembled team will join the jet- and rocket-powered car at its new home at SGS Berkeley Green University Technical College (UTC) on the Gloucestershire Science and Technology Park.

‘Starting with a clean slate’

Bloodhound

Speaking at the opening of the new HQ, Ian Warhurst said: “Since buying Bloodhound from the administrators last December, the team and I have been overwhelmed by the passion and enthusiasm the public have shown for the project.

“Over the last decade, an incredible amount of hard graft has been invested in the project and it would be a tragedy to see it go to waste.
 
“Starting with a clean slate, it’s my ambition to let Bloodhound off the leash see just how fast this car can go. I’ve been reviewing the project and I’m confident there is a commercial business proposition to support it.

“I’ll provide robust financing to ensure there is cash flow to hit the high-speed testing deadlines we set ourselves.”

Bloodhound LSR driver Andy Green

Ian is joined by driver and current land speed record holder Andy Green (pictured above), engineering director Mark Chapman, chief financial officer Rick Sturge, operations director Martyn Davidson, commercial director Ewen Honeyman, along with many of the original mechanics and technicians.

‘A very hard fight’

Former Bloodhound CEO Richard Noble said: “It was a very hard fight to create the Bloodhound car, the largest STEM programme in the UK, the public engagement programme and the 1,000 man year desert preparation.

“Our weakness had always been finance and now after Administration, with Ian Warhurst the team finally has the financial support it needs to drive forward with confidence and achieve what we set out to do nearly 12 years ago.”

Bloodhound LSR is looking for sponsors to help to the project to the next phase, with the dates of high-speed test runs to be announced “once operational and logistics planning is complete”.

The objective is to break the world land-speed record, which is currently 763.035mph. Bloodhound is targeting 1,000mph.

McBrilliant: McLaren Glasgow is named best European retailer

McLaren Glasgow

McLaren Glasgow has been named McLaren European Retailer of the Year 2018, seeing off seven other UK dealers and European centres from as far afield as Stockholm and Riga.

It’s the third time Britain’s most northerly Macca retailer has scooped the prestigious prize, with the award claimed by McLaren Glasgow in its first year of trading in 2015, then again in 2016. The retailer also won the Global award in 2015.

In 2018, McLaren Beverly Hills lifted the Global crown, beating four regional finalists from Taipei, Mexico and Glasgow.

McLaren Glasgow European best

David Gilbert, managing director of McLaren Automotive in Europe, said: “I would like to congratulate McLaren Glasgow on claiming its third McLaren European Retailer of the Year award.

“McLaren Glasgow continues to set high standards in marketing, customer service and aftersales in addition to exemplary sales performance. This achievement is testament to the team’s commitment and I look forward to working together to continue this success in 2019.”

Other UK locations include Ascot, Birmingham, Bristol, Hatfield, Leeds, London and Manchester, plus a new retailer in the New Forest. 

No matter where you are in the UK, we suspect some of the terrific driving roads situated just north of Glasgow make the Scottish dealer a tempting location for McLaren’s most hardcore driving enthusiasts.

Service your McLaren, head north, enjoy empty roads, and return home feeling energised. Job done.