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MG UK auto retail showroom

Auto industry calls to reopen car showrooms

DS Store in Manchester. Car showrooms are spacious areas that are as safe as garden centres, says the industry trade body

The UK automotive industry is calling on the government to give almost 5,000 car showrooms in Britain the green light to urgently reopen, deeming them as safe as garden centres.

Trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says auto retailers are ready to go back to work with social distancing and hygiene measures already in place.

It calculates the daily cost of car showrooms remaining closed to be £61 million, due to lost VAT income and furlough payments for almost 600,000 employees.

“The sector is now ready to return to work,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Car showrooms, just like garden centres, are spacious and can accommodate social distancing easily, making them some of the UK’s safest retail premises.”

MG UK auto retail showroom

Mr Hawes said a green light to reopen would stimulate consumer confidence and restart the sale of new cars.

In April 2020, new car registrations were down 97.3 percent.

“Car sales act as the engine for manufacturing and reopening showrooms is an easy and relatively safe next step to help get the economy restarted.

“With every day of closure another day of lost income for the industry, we see no reason for delay.”

The SMMT is backing its call with a campaign called ’10 reasons to #unlockukauto’, highlighting the importance of reopening car showrooms.

This is aimed at encouraging ministers to clear car dealers to reopen, and outlines some of the measures retailers have put in place during the past few weeks.

These include one-way walkways, shielding, contactless transactions, cleaning and test-drive processes, appointment systems and revised showroom layouts.

Many retailers are already offering ‘click and collect’ facilities.

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Technician spraying an anti-baterial mist into a vehicle

Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall launch anti-viral cleaning service

Technician spraying an anti-baterial mist into a vehicle

Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Vauxhall dealers have introduced a new service to give cars an anti-bacterial clean to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Complete Anti-Bacterial Refresh service includes a full clean of the air conditioning system to both remove bugs and lockdown-induced odours.

Pollen filters in the vehicles will also be replaced: these cleanse the air and remove dust, as well as keeping pollen at bay.

Technicians will carry out a 29-point vehicle health check, including tyres, battery condition, brakes and engine drive belts.

At the end of the service, cars will be fully disinfected before handover, both outside and in.

The service costs £99 and Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Vauxhall owners can book their car in to their local retailer online.

Groupe PSA, the parent company behind the brands, says it is offering the service as travel restrictions begin to lift.

The aim is to ensure cars left stationary during lockdown are safe, and also that occupants can travel in the safest possible environment.

All Group PSA technicians follow social distancing guidelines, adds the firm. Contactless vehicle drop-offs can be arranged, plus a car collection and delivery service from home or work.  

The four firms have all set up dedicated pages for owners keen to take up the Complete Anti-Bacterial Refresh service:

Peugeot: www.peugeot.co.uk/peugeotrefresh/   

Citroen: www.citroen.co.uk/owner-services/ownership-offers/complete-anti-bacterial-refresh

DS: www.dsautomobiles.co.uk/services/ownership-promotions  

Vauxhall: www.vauxhall.co.uk/owners/offers/vauxhall-refresh.html

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London Congestion Charge

London Congestion Charge and ULEZ return from Monday 18 May

London Congestion Charge

The London Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) will be reintroduced from Monday 18 May as Transport for London phases out emergency coronavirus measures.

Both charges were dropped on March 23 to help key workers get to work while avoiding public transport.

Car parking restrictions were relaxed during this period, too.

The Evening Standard reports the reintroduction of the charges comes two weeks earlier than planned.

Transport for London has also confirmed the Congestion Charge will be “temporarily” increased from £11.50 to £15 from June 22.

It will be enforced seven days a week, rather than only on weekdays, and operating hours in the evening will be extended from 6pm to 10pm.

The morning enforcement start-time of 7am will remain.

The changes follow the agreement of a £1.6 billion government support package for Transport for London, whose finances have been hit by a plunge in passenger numbers during the coronavirus crisis.

“Enormous challenges remain,” said London Transport Commissioner Mike Brown, “including agreeing longer term sustainable funding for transport in the capital.”

NHS staff

NHS workers, however, will continue to benefit from a Congestion Charge reinbursement scheme that refunds them for journeys related to coronavirus, including to and from work. 

This scheme has now been extended to support care home employees too. 

Transport for London has a dedicated page explaining how NHS staff and care home employees can be reimbursed for the London Congestion Charge

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Call to end 6-month MOT extension ‘as soon as possible’

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MOT sign

Call to end 6-month MOT extension ‘as soon as possible’

MOT sign

The six-month MOT extension brought in to help keep key workers mobile during the coronavirus lockdown should be ended as soon as possible, says trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

“With government advice stating that works should avoid public transport when returning to work,” said chief executive Mike Hawes, “the use of private cars is likely to rise.

“Given many of these vehicles have been idle for weeks, a reconsideration of the six-month MOT extension neds to be made as soon as possible.”

The extension saw MOTs that expired during the lockdown automatically extended by six months.

The rule change was introduced on 30 March and is currently in force until March 2021. This means that any MOT expiring until then will be granted an automatic six-month extension.

In the interests of safety and vehicle reliability, the SMMT believes the regular annual MOT check needs to recommence quickly. This would see the current emergency legislation withdrawn again. 

Roadworthiness risks

Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry, echoed the SMMT’s call.

“Whilst the motives for the initiative were sound at that time, there are serious risks in the extension remaining in place now.

“First and foremost, if vehicles are coming back onto the roads in volume, it is vital for all road users’ safety that they are roadworthy.

“The other issue is that if all motorists wait up to 6 months from when their MOT expired to get their vehicle tested, there is going to be a big backlog of tests in the autumn and winter, which could significantly overwhelm the sector.”

Mr Hawes said the sector has now introduced coronavirus safety guidance to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

“It is timely that the aftermarket can assure customers and colleagues that it is ready to reopen safely to ensure workers’ vehicles remain roadworthy.”

The sector is ready to cope with a “significant ramp-up in demand,” he added.

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This is your invite to the world’s smallest concours d’elegance event

Isolation Island Concours d'Elegance

With full-size car shows across the world suspended due to COVID-19, some auto enthusiasts are scaling down their concours ideas. 

The online-only Isolation Island Concours d’Elegance event aims to give participants the experience of a major car show. But one undertaken safely from the comfort of their own homes using model cars. 

Plus, with participants able to spend no more than $350 (£285) on their chosen entry, nobody needs a priceless Bugatti or Ferrari to enter. 

A concours event for everyone

Isolation Island Concours d'Elegance

The Isolation Island concours show was created by real-world car show judge and journalist, Andy Reid. His idea for the online scale model show came from wanting to give “friends, whether concours judges, exhibitors or collectors, a way to enjoy their cars, no matter what the scale”.

Now with contests hosted every two weeks on Facebook, Reid has looked to expand Isolation Island to an even wider audience. Entrants need to submit between four and six photos of their chosen model, with a donation to charity also recommended. 

Like a real-world concours show, classes range from classic pre-war vehicles, through to modern sports cars and hot rods. Porsches, Corvettes, and Ferraris, ever a popular choice at physical events, get their own class to compete in

No need to clean these engine bays

Isolation Island Concours d'Elegance

Scales allowed in the contest range from the smallest 1/43 models, through to larger 1/24 and 1/18 sizes. More compact models can also be entered into the ‘Misfit Toys’ category, offering an easily accessible route into the competition.

The cap on model costs means that this is not a competition entrants can just spend to win. Instead, Isolation Island Concours requires creative photography and attention to detail to impress the judges. 

A panel of 30 judges includes concours d’elegance experts, former racing drivers, and individuals like car designer Ralph Giles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Think small, win big 

Isolation Island Concours d'Elegance

Winning participants get the benefit of a (virtual) awards ceremony, with actual prizes also distributed to the victors. 

The first rounds of the contest in April and May attracted numerous entries, with Isolation Island already raising some $30,000 (£24,400) for good causes and first responders. 

Round four of Isolation Island Concours d’Elegance is accepting entries until May 19th, leaving plenty of time to dust off those old models.

The full entry rules can be found on the Isolation Island website, with entries to be made via Facebook. 

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M6 motorway

1 in 3 motorists admit lockdown driving is increasing

M6 motorway

Motorists are starting to use their cars more, and drive more miles per trip, despite lockdown restrictions remaining unchanged, new figures show.

RAC black box car insurance driving data shows there were 11 percent more cars on the road last week than at the beginning of lockdown.

Daily driven miles also increased 23 percent.

In a separate survey by the RAC, more than 1 in 3 motorists admitted they are using their vehicles more.

Even usage of the RAC Routeplanner tool is increasing, with planned journeys rising 16 percent in a week.

“There is now mounting evidence that people are venturing back out in their vehicles,” said RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes.

“Until anything concrete is confirmed, the current advice remains to only go out when necessary for essential purposes, or where you cannot work from home.

“The question drivers should ask themselves before venturing out is, ‘do I really need to?”

Why are motorists driving more in lockdown?

When asked, a quarter of motorists said they were using a car more for grocery shopping. 1 in 10 said it was to pick up essential supplies or visit a pharmacy.

However, 5 percent admitted it was to visit a DIY store, and another 5 percent said it was to buy alcohol.

4 percent said they were driving more for work purposes.

A tiny 1 percent said it was to visit a beauty spot, and 1 percent said it was to simply give their car a lockdown run.

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Police cancel speeding fines ‘due to coronavirus’

Police speed check

Following the announcement that speed awareness courses are suspended for three months, some speeding tickets have now been cancelled altogether.

As police forces struggle to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, drivers may simply be issued a written warning – with no fine or licence penalty points to follow.

The Times reports letters sent to motorists explaining it is ‘not in the public interest’ to prosecute minor speeding offences.

And one Motoring Research reader had his speed awareness course cancelled, and the fee refunded, ‘due to issues related to the coronavirus’. 

Fewer cars, greater speeds

The news comes against a backdrop of vastly reduced traffic and some high profile speeding cases during the coronavirus lockdown.

Further research by The Times showed journey times increased by 13 per cent in Belfast’s morning rush hour, versus 57 percent on a normal day. The RAC also reported a 40 percent reduction in traffic levels by the second week of lockdown. 

Meanwhile, a driver was filmed doing 151mph on the M1 over the Easter weekend, while another clocked at 130mph on the M25 told police he was speeding to “avoid catching coronavirus”.

Speed camera

Courses may be cancelled

The usual yardstick for a speeding offence is 10 percent over the limit plus 2mph – so 46mph in a 40mph zone, for example.

Speed awareness courses are intended for drivers close to this threshold. The fee is around £100, but opting for the course means no Fixed Penalty Notice or points.

UK Road Offender Education, which operates speed awareness courses on behalf of the police, suspended all classroom-based courses for 12 weeks from Friday 20 March. However, many could now be cancelled altogether.

Officially, motorists have four months from the date on a speeding letter to complete a course (if offered) – or face further action. It seems likely some leeway will be afforded due to the lockdown, however, even if some courses are simply suspended for longer.

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How to self-isolate your electric or plug-in hybrid car

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Road traffic levels are now ‘akin to those in the early 1970s’, as millions of motorists stay at home during the lockdown. As a result, many cars will be left unused for weeks on end.

Leaving a car untouched can lead to problems with the battery, tyres, brakes and bodywork, but there is specific advice for electric and plug-in hybrid cars. Here, we reveal the tips for electrified vehicles when not in regular use.

The advice comes from Bob Taenaka, senior technical leader for battery and cell system development at Ford. He says the most important thing is to make sure your car’s 12-volt battery remains charged and the high-voltage battery has adequate charge. At least 10 percent is required to prevent it draining to zero.

If you have driven or had your electric/plug-in hybrid vehicle on charge for at least eight hours within the past month, the 12-volt battery should be adequately charged.

When storing a battery electric car for longer periods, a charge of between 10 percent and 80 percent is recommended. A high-voltage battery above 10 percent state of charge can go for more than six months without charging, but the 12-volt battery will drain much faster.

Ford Kuga plug-in hybrid

Taenaka recommends disconnecting the negative terminal of the 12-volt battery. Alternatively, leave the electrified vehicle plugged in and connect the 12-volt battery to a trickle charger.

 “If you are storing your vehicle for longer than 30 days without use, we recommend disconnecting the negative terminal of your 12-volt battery,” says Taenaka. “This avoids depletion and potential damage to the battery, which runs the internal systems such as heating – without the need for monthly maintenance.”

Disconnecting the 12-volt battery

Car battery

Remember the following points when disconnecting a 12-volt car battery:

  • Make sure you have the key fob outside of the car, because you may need to use the physical key to lock and unlock the vehicle.
  • If the vehicle is in a locked garage and the 12-volt battery is in the boot, leave the boot lid open.
  • Once the 12-volt battery is disconnected, use the key to unlock and lock the doors.
  • If the battery is in the boot and you’re not storing the car in a garage, you will require another 12-volt source. Follow the ‘jump start’ instructions in the owner’s manual to restore 12-volt power to the vehicle in order to open the boot.

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Can car air filters protect you from coronavirus?

Driving with a mask on

Chinese carmaker Geely recently unveiled its new Icon SUV. Its headline feature is an ability to ‘isolate and eliminate harmful elements in the cabin air, including bacteria and viruses.’ 

Geely’s claim centres on the Icon’s air purification system, which is certified to CN95 – or 95 percent filtration of particles down to 0.3 microns. A series of anti-bacterial filters then ‘kill the escaped virus’, says Geely. 

Other Chinese marques have followed suit, including SAIC, which owns the MG brand. Its solution includes an ultraviolet lamp to sterilise passing air. But are such claims merely a marketing ploy?

Sealing a car ‘almost impossible’

Geely Icon

Werner Bergman, research director at Aerosol Science, is sceptical. He told SAE International: ““I would be suspicious of any claims for effective ambient filtration that does not involve slightly pressurising the cabin with filtered air”.

However, “It is almost impossible to have a sufficiently sealed cabin or room,” he adds. 

Electric carmaker Tesla has also made bold claims about cabin filtration. Its Model X and Model S have a ‘Bioweapon Defence Mode’ that is claimed to remove ‘at least 99.97 per cent of fine particulate matter and gaseous pollutants, as well as bacteria, viruses, pollen and mould spores’.

Putting Tesla to the test

Tesla Model X

In reality, though, the protection Bioweapon Defence Mode offers from coronavirus may be limited.

Speaking to Gizmodo, Michael Buchmeier, deputy director of the Pacific Southwest Regional Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases at the University of California, said: “[Filtration to] 0.3 micrometre won’t hold back viruses. It will hold back most bacteria, but it won’t hold back viruses”.

The good news is that a corona-proof car probably isn’t necessary. “I can’t think of any circumstance where the outdoor COVID-19 concentration is so high that one needs a vehicle filtration system,” explained Bergman.

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How to buy a new car battery online in lockdown

Buy a car battery in lockdown

With the coronavirus lockdown leaving many vehicles left unused, a flat battery could be a problem when it comes to needing your car again.

If you have found it increasingly harder to start your car, or that it will just not start at all, you might need a new battery.

Read our guide on how you can order a new car battery online, and the options to get it fitted.

Why might my car battery be flat?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Although modern car batteries have features to help them preserve charge when left unused, the chemical reaction occurring inside will still cause it to slowly discharge over time.

Equipment like car alarms and even clocks take a small amount of charge, too. 

Alone these should not cause a healthy battery to flatten fully, but they may be enough to drain the life out of an old or weakened one. 

Leaving interior lights on, or devices plugged into charging sockets, will mean a much quicker route to a dead battery. 

How can I stop my car battery from going flat?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

The most obvious way to stop it going flat is to drive your car. However, current government restrictions mean driving simply to charge your battery is unlikely to be considered an essential journey. 

Manufacturers such as Kia have recommended allowing your car engine to run in idle for 20 minutes once a fortnight. Doing so should allow the battery to keep charged up.

Safety warning: this should be done outdoors, and with the car supervised at all times.

A dedicated battery charger, or a trickle charger, can also be used to maintain charge during extended periods without use. Some chargers also have the ability to ‘jump start’ a flat battery. 

Where can I buy a new car battery online?

Buy a car battery in lockdownIf all else has failed and your car battery is clearly in need of replacement, there are numerous options to order a new one online and have it delivered to your door.

Halfords offers a substantial range of new batteries, and the option to have it delivered to your home. The company also offers click and collect options designed to maintain social distancing.

Similarly, Euro Car Parts is able to supply various different car batteries with free delivery. Click and collect is available for key workers. 

The RAC Shop sells an extensive range of batteries, and can have one delivered to your door the next working day. 

What kind of car battery do I need?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Gone are the days of just sticking any 12-volt battery under the bonnet and forgetting about it. Modern cars have complicated electrical systems, and the right battery is needed to avoid the risk of damaging them.

Cars with automatic Start-Stop systems, which can turn the engine off when stationary at traffic lights for instance, need their own special type of battery. These will be marked as ‘AGM’ or ‘EFB’, and should be replaced with a similarly designated battery. 

Online retailers such as Halfords, Euro Car Parts and the RAC all offer ‘battery finder’ tools on their websites.

Simply type in your car registration number to find the best match for your motor, but make sure you check against what is currently fitted, just to be sure.

Can I fit a new car battery myself?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Again, the complexity of modern cars means fitting a new battery yourself is not necessarily a simple task. Cars with automatic Start-Stop need to have their battery management system reset when a replacement is fitted, which requires specific equipment to do. 

For those with older vehicles, the RAC has a comprehensive guide should you feel confident enough to fit a replacement battery yourself. 

If you are unsure about fitting a battery yourself, then leave it to a professional.

What if I want someone to fit it for me?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

If you decide to have a new battery fitted by someone else, you have multiple choices depending on your circumstances. 

Should your battery be completely flat, and you have breakdown cover, check if your policy includes battery replacement.

Both the RAC and AA either offer free, or low-cost, battery fitting for members. Certain policies will also include the actual cost of the battery, too. 

Non-members can also use the RAC and AA to supply and fit replacement batteries, with same-day services advertised. 

Halfords also offers mobile battery fitting through the Tyres On The Drive service.

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Should your car still be drivable, but with a battery that will need replacing, various retailers can fit a replacement for you. 

Halfords, Euro Car Parts, Kwik Fit, and ATS Euromaster are still able to offer battery fitting services. 

COVID-19 means these outlets are prioritising key workers and emergency services first, and a booking will be needed first. 

What if I own an electric or hybrid car?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Electric and hybrid vehicles typically feature two distinct batteries: a main lithium-ion unit for the electric motors, plus a regular 12-volt battery for accessories.

This 12-volt unit can also run out of charge, just like in a normal petrol or diesel-engined car.

If this 12-volt battery is flat, it may prevent an electric car from starting regardless of how fully charged the main battery is.

Some plug-in vehicles, like the Kia Niro, are able to jump start the 12-volt battery from the main lithium-ion battery.

Charging and replacing the 12-volt battery in an electric or hybrid vehicle is likely to be more complicated than a conventional car.

Read the vehicle handbook and owners manual for your specific model to avoid the risk of damaging electrical components.

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