Archive | May, 2012

Cameras Cut Car Insurance Fraud

A taxi firm owner in Hull has been told to install cameras in all of his cars to cut down on fraudulent whiplash claims. As a consequence of accidents both ‘honest’ and crooked’ the premiums for his cab fleet have risen by 70%. In one case, his insurer paid out £10,000 compensation following an accident that caused £100 worth of damage to the car.

Whilst the government continue to talk about the problem of car insurance fraud, at least one company is taking steps of their own by offering discounts to motorists who fit an in-car camera that will record the moments leading up to an accident. For once, this is actually a good idea – especially if it ultimately helps to bring down the cost of premiums.

From this summer, motorists who volunteer to fit a camera will be offered discounts of up to 15% which could be a lot of money, especially to young drivers. There being no such thing as a free lunch, the customer is going to have to foot the bill – thought to be around £200 for the kit.

The miniature camera fits behind the rear view mirror and shoots footage of the road ahead as well as the time, date, location and speed, which it automatically saves when if it detects an accident has occurred. The resulting HD-quality movie can then be reviewed by claims assessors to determine what happened and who was at fault.

The plan is that the camera will help to resolve fraudulent cash-for-crash scams where, for example, a car full of passengers accelerates onto a roundabout before braking sharply thus making the poor innocent soul in the car behind crash into the back of the crook’s car, albeit at a low speed. Serious injury is avoided but the occupants of the first car will all make whiplash claims; the average payout for which is well over £2000 according to the Association of British Insurers.

The camera scheme comes after a ‘summit’ chaired by Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, which ‘called for’ more to be done to crack down on whiplash claims, something for which motorists have been clamouring for years. Among the recommendations discussed was the setting up of independent panels of doctors to assess whiplash injuries and the introduction of a minimum speed below which such claims would be unlikely to succeed. We’ll see if this becomes a reality.

It would seem that the initial outlay is a small price to pay as a driver needs to buy the equipment only once but could reap the rewards of lower premiums in the long term.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)

Ken Clarke Cracks The Whip

It’s nice to know that the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, reads Motor Blogger because, as at the end of April, he’s announced ‘new measures’ to combat fraudulent whiplash claims. To help prevent rocketing insurance costs he is taking steps (big ones, we hope) to weed out the con-men. To deter the ‘crash for cash’ (see MB 28.04.12) merchants he intends to make it much harder to obtain doctors’ certificates for alleged whiplash injuries and for reaching spurious ‘out of court’ settlements with insurers.

There has been a 70% rise in personal injury claims from traffic accidents in the past six years, despite a 23% fall in the overall number of casualties caused by crashes. The effect of this is to make car insurance ludicrously expensive for everybody and even an impossible target for some hard pressed motorists. The blame has been placed firmly at the door of the ‘no win no fee’ brigade, who, at the time of writing, were still advertising shamelessly on TV.

An unnamed Whitehall Official said that Britain was now ‘the whiplash capital of Europe, with more than 1500 claims a day and people claiming for whiplash injuries sustained in the most minor of accidents”.

Kenneth Clarke is noted as saying: “It is scandalous that that we have a system where it is cheaper for insurers to settle a spurious whiplash claim out of court than defend it, creating rocketing insurance premiums for honest drivers. Our commonsense reforms will put a stop to this. We will weed out fraudulent claims by tackling questionable medical evidence”.

He went on to state that the new rules would allow insurance companies to defend claims thoroughly and pass on the savings to customers by making it quicker, easier and cheaper to process claims through the small claims court. This, he hopes, will ensure that those with bona-fide claims will be dealt with fairly. Research published earlier this year showed that in the past two years 60% of GPs have seen an increase in the number of patients who they believed were feigning whiplash.

The Commons Transport Committee found that diagnoses of injuries were ‘subjective’. Usually the diagnosis is made on the basis of the background of the injury and the patient’s description of symptoms. Whiplash cannot be seen on an MRI or CT scan or on an X-Ray although an X-ray is taken if there is a suspicion of fracture or dislocation of the cervical spine. Essentially, the doctor has to take the patient’s word for it. The injury can easily be exploited by crooks or cretins looking to make a few quid who are led blindly by the nose by unscrupulous lawyers. The Committee also demanded that insurers be banned from selling customer information.

In short, everybody’s at it. Let’s hope that Mr Clarke is as good, or better, than his word and he gets this sorted as soon as possible and not at some time in the future when it is expedient to do so.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)

Izzy Wizzy, Let’s Get Twizy!

Here at Motor Blogger we’re not frightened of a teasing headline. We could have made it “Let’s get Twizycal!”. Anyway, we apologise to the Sooty empire and hope that at the next puppet awards they make a clean Sweep of the prizes! I hope they don’t Soo!

More to the point, who do you think the Renault Twizy is for? It is, effectively, a quadricycle. It is clearly designed for the city and the young at heart but surely in warmer climes. In the UK you can experience many different weather conditions, often on the same day. You could leave home warm and dry but be soaked and frozen in no time as the Twizy has no windows or air-con.

There are two versions. The Twizy 45 – classed as a light quadricycle – is limited to 45km/h (28mph) and is driven via a 4kw electric motor. This smaller unit wasn’t originally going to be sold here but clearly Renault can see a market for it. Doors, such as they are, are only an optional extra on this model. Big Brother is the Twizy 80 (80km/h 50mph) sporting a more powerful 13kw unit. This version – classed as a heavy quadricycle – will come with three trim levels and start around the £6700 mark with the top of the range coming in at a rather bracing £7400. You can buy a proper city car for that and, in the UK, that is probably a more sensible option; even if the running costs will of course be higher.

All four wheels are mounted outside the body and there is no escaping the fact that this car looks pretty neat. The ‘doors’ have no frame, handles or glass and you have to reach inside to open them. Inside, the driver sits centrally with the passenger immediately behind with their legs straddling the drivers seat. Effective and roomy, if not terribly elegant. The Twizy is simple to operate and, because it is so light, has nippy performance. Careful driving should deliver a 50 mile range per 3.5 hour charge from a conventional socket.

This car is certain to appeal to the yoof market and fortunately for them, here in the UK, we are finally harmonising driver licensing with the EU, so from the 19th January 2013, British 16-year-olds will be able to follow their French and Italian counterparts by zipping irresponsibly around in light quadricycles and maybe transfer to the ‘heavy‘ version when they‘re 17. Assuming they can find someone to insure them, of course.

Posted in Car ReviewsComments (0)

New or Used?

Thinking about buying a car this year? Times are hard and financial difficulties abound so it will pay you to give serious thought as to whether you buy a new car or a used car. It’s a big expensive decision if you think about it, second only possibly to buying your own home. The last thing you need is to make snap decisions.

First up, you need to calculate what you are willing or able to spend. Once you’ve laid down the purchase price you’ll also have to consider the running costs before you settle on a make or model. You might be able to afford more or less but, as a starting position, twenty per cent of your total income makes for a good rule of thumb. Remember to allow for insurance, annual fuel bills and servicing expenses in your sums.

Obviously, you know the types of car you’re interested in but are they realistic? Carefully research your choices – including the features and options – and don’t let your heart rule your head. Get the facts firmly established in your mind before you even approach a dealer.

Then there’s the big question. Can you afford or do you need a new motor or would a used one make more sense? It’s a harder choice than you think. There’s no doubt that a new car, especially your first ever, with its ‘special’ price and sundry extras, is indeed a wonderful thing. There it sits in all its virgin glory, unsullied by human hand, just waiting to drop a quarter of its value as soon as it leaves the showroom. Depreciation is a cruel mistress, although not so much of a worry if you plan to keep the car for a long time.

That doesn’t necessarily mean to say that a used car will give better value. Right now, good second hand cars are in high demand and prices are strong, whereas there are some great new car deals around. On the plus side someone else has taken the initial depreciation hit and, if the car still comes with a warranty and a full service history, it may make sense.

If you’re part exchanging, it will tend to make the process a bit more complicated. Check out the value of your car as best you can so that you can confront the dealer with some sound figures. Selling your car privately is the best option but not everybody likes to do that, such are the worries of criminal activity and the like, but it doesn’t mean you have to give your existing car away just to achieve your dream. First of all, settle on the price of your new car and then negotiate the trade-in value of yours. You may well get a better deal by keeping the two deals separate.

Some people just need a car that goes and does what they require of it, but there’s nothing wrong with having aspirations in your life – just make sure that the deal is right for you.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

New Plug-in Updates The Prius Philosophy

The new Toyota Prius Plug-in is the latest evolution of the company’s popular hybrid range and sets a new benchmark for low-emission technology. Toyota claim that this new car – available to order now and in the showrooms from July – is capable of 108.6mpg whilst breathing out a health enhancing 59g/km of CO² . In full EV mode, the tailpipe emissions are zero.

The difference between this car and its older sibling is that it relies on lithium-ion batteries rather than the usual Toyota nickel-metal hydride units currently fitted to the Auris and standard Prius. Lithium-ion batteries can carry more energy and recharge to full in just 90 minutes. The downside, inevitably, is that the new units are heavier and more expensive to produce so it’s likely that this new iteration of the popular hybrid will be more expensive.

Although the Lithium-ion batteries add an extra 130kg to this already hefty car, the electric only range is extended from 2 miles to a much more useable 12.5 and the top speed in EV mode is now a creditable 62mph. Around the town the car should mostly be all electric, only choosing to rouse the sleeping engine if the throttle is floored. Otherwise the car has the same mechanicals as the standard Prius. There will be, for now, a single specification which will include high-tech features like a heads-up display, the Touch-and-Go multimedia centre, voice recognition and the more usual Bluetooth and satellite navigation options, amongst a welcome list of others. The car has economical 15” alloys and a selection of four exterior colours is offered. The main expense for additional options is the choice of black leather upholstery at £1500. How many people will go for that, given the car’s ethos?

The range anxiety problem suffered by fully electric cars can be safely ignored here because the Plug-in will switch seamlessly to hybrid mode automatically if the electric charge is drained. Recharging is both simple and fast using a power point linked to a standard domestic supply or an on-street charging point. The car comes with the charging kit in the price, including five metres of cabling that can be stored beneath the boot floor. The price is expected to be an eye-watering £32,895 but the government will refund £5000 once you’ve purchased. No doubt over time the price of these cars will come down as economies of scale come into action and the technology becomes ever more efficient. In the meantime, if you’re serious about doing your bit to save the planet you could do worse than invest in a Prius Plug-in.

Posted in Car ReviewsComments (0)

War on Motorists

It’s official. You can establish the truth without help from any other source just by visiting a petrol pump. Our coalition government, so concerned for the motorist when in opposition, are continuing the war on drivers just as their predecessors had done. No doubt they will blame the ‘economic mess’ left behind by Labour. The result, however, is forcing drivers off the road.

The number of vehicles on Britain’s highways is in decline and new car sales are, at best, holding their own. The Department for Transport has revealed that the volume of motor traffic has fallen for a fourth successive year. Statistics show that terms of miles driven as at 2010 there was a year on year drop of 0.8%, 1% and 1.6% up to 2009 and it is continuing, although, as we‘ll see, the DoT disputes this as a long term effect.

Apparently, in 2010/11 some £27 billion was raised through fuel tax yet the government appears not to be in the least bit satisfied with that and will, at the time of writing, increase fuel duty again in August 2012. The AA have said:

“People are being priced off the roads, and it is those on low incomes and those in rural areas who are worst affected. There is a real danger that motoring is being wound back to the 1960s and 70s, when it was, by and large, the preserve of the middle classes.”

People on higher incomes may well weather the storm but those with lower pay will suffer. What price the mobility of pensioners, one wonders, or young families trying to make their way? Goods are more expensive in the shops because of the increased costs to the transport industry. The more expensive fuel becomes the more living expenses, jobs and the economy in general suffers, yet successive governments seem to be bereft of ideas to find other ways to generate income or save money. It doesn’t end there of course, insurance and garage fees rise inexorably every year adding to the misery. People are being forced to give up their cars.

Should we read so much into statistics? The DoT seems to think not. The Department suggest that the reduction in traffic is a ‘blip’ when compared to the overall picture. They have predicted that over the next thirty years or so we will see a rise in traffic of 43%. The suggestion also is that as people become ‘greener’ they are voluntarily reducing their mileage and are, for example, cycling more instead. Hmmm. This is the problem with statistics – a rise of 43% will have alarming consequences for the road transport system which is why we are probably being softened up now to the prospect of road charging. It is a problem to know where the truth lies but for now motorists wallets will continue to be plundered.


Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

Oil And Water Don’t Mix – Check Your Engine! Part Two.

Down in the bowels of your engine where wise men fear to go lies – the gearbox. Otherwise known as the transmission, this is an area of the car that tends to be overlooked but it too sometimes needs attention. Auto ‘boxes need a little more TLC than their manual counterparts. The gear oil needed is usually red, which helps to differentiate it from engine oil and helps identify tell-tale signs of problems. Fortunately, gearbox lubricant doesn’t need changing with anything like the frequency of engine oil.

As with the engine oil in Part One, if you feel metal flakes in the fluid on your latex gloved fingers then your gearbox is eating itself and repairs are needed. When clutches are slipping a burning smell occurs and a remedy is called for. Change that clutch fast! As mentioned, transmission fluid is usually red but if it turns to a schoolgirl pink then, somehow, coolant is mixing with it. The bad news here is that coolant has a tendency to attack the seals in the transmission so you have to find the leak, change the seals and replace your gear oil immediately. Again, like engine oil, if the fluid is foamy or sticky then it is an indication that your gearbox has overheated at some point or has been over filled. Put simply, when there is bubbles in oil there must be air and air doesn’t lubricate.

You know that sinking feeling when you notice a puddle under your car? Yes, that’s right – there’s a leak. If the offending liquid is brown or black then it is engine oil. Get some on your finger and sniff it. If it smells like oil then it is oil. If however, the leak is red then it’s coming from the transmission. Seriously, don’t put your finger in this one. If it appears to come from the centre of the car then it is the gearbox, if it’s near the wheels then it is probably brake fluid. Either way, go directly to your garage.

Next, there’s that good old standby, the water leak. If the liquid is clear then it is probably just run off from scuttles or drainage points. You also get it as part of the normal operation of air-conditioning systems, so nothing to worry about. If it is green or blue then it’s coolant. The location of the leak will give clues as to where it is coming from. The water pump, the radiator or a hose. Often these are simple jobs that can be done at home. Just don’t delay.

Finally, a word about dead rainbows. These appear under your car when any form of oil leaks into water. The two don’t mix so form rainbow colours when light is reflected off them. Have your car checked for leaks anywhere. Any form of leak affects the performance of your car in some way and, if not attended to, could herald serious and expensive problems in the near future. Repairing or replacing gearboxes is horrendously expensive. Regular maintenance is key to a happy life with your beloved motor.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

Maloo Madness

Most people, given a bit of notice, can tolerate an Australian around the place for a while provided they don’t do anything loud or say anything crass. Australia is one of those countries that you feel you ought to visit but probably won’t because you can’t face the trip to the far side of the world; and yet it has much to recommend it. Assuming you like spiders and snakes, of course.

First off, no trip down under would be complete without a visit to a round of the V8 Supercar championship. This has probably got to be one of the most exciting bumper to bumper spectacles in motor racing and is often supported by the truly bonkers V8 Ute Racing Series. If there’s one thing Aussies love it’s their Utes (trans: Utility Vehicles), although we more refined Brits would probably refer to them as pick-up trucks. If this sort of thing is what starts your motor then you’ll be delighted to hear you can buy one here thanks to our friends at Vauxhall. Enter the Maloo!

Down there in the Land of Thunder, General Motors vehicles are badged as Holdens but here the car will be sold under the Vauxhall VXR banner. See the image above which doesn’t really do justice to its magnificence. Originally developed by Holden Special Vehicles – which was established in the 1980’s by the Tom Walkinshaw organisation – this latest incarnation sports a 6L V8 engine that develops a whopping 425bhp and 406lb ft of torque through a six-speed manual gearbox. Surprisingly, given its pedigree and its driving prowess, this ute has benign handling and, although it appears to be front heavy with an empty load bed at the back, has, in fact, an almost 50/50 balance. Doesn’t mean it is not capable of biting back though, should you overstep the mark.

This probably wouldn’t be your first choice if you were looking for a work horse yet the car retains its original function by offering a fully useable 1208 litre load bed under its lid, damped with gas struts. The statistics don’t unfortunately show how many cans of lager it can accommodate which seems to be an oversight. Meanwhile the two seat interior has all the usual appointments laid out, as you would expect, in a manly fashion, but you do get the nicely old fashioned addition of three cool gauges on top of the dashboard for oil pressure, oil temperature and battery voltage. The most pointless accessory prize goes to the function on the info-tainment unit which tells you when the car is in understeer or oversteer – a fact that should be blindingly obvious.

This spectacular vehicle will cost around £50,000 or so and return about 18mpg, so you’ll need to ensure that running costs are not your first priority. It is hard to see who this car is for and what its purpose is. Which is actually a pointless statement since the Vauxhall VXR Maloo is clearly the most desirable vehicle on the market. For real men only.

Posted in Car ReviewsComments (0)

Another New Nissan to Sunderland in 2014

During a trade visit to Japan this month David Cameron and Nissan Chief Operating Officer, Toshiyuki Shiga, announced at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama, Japan that a brand new medium sized hatchback will be produced at the Sunderland plant from 2014. This follows the announcement at last month’s Geneva Motor Show that Sunderland will also produce a mainstream B-segment compact car based on the INVITATION concept from next year (pictured right).

The new medium hatchback announced today will create an additional 225 jobs at Nissan and 900 at component companies supplying Nissan in the UK. Combined, both models will result in more than 3,000 new jobs being created in the UK automotive sector within the next two years – 625 at Nissan and the remainder across the supply base. Once recruitment for both models is complete, the Sunderland Plant workforce will stand at a record 6,225 supporting an overall annual plant volume of more than half a million units. This will make the factory the UK’s biggest car maker. This is as a result of a major project investment by Nissan of £127m in its Sunderland Plant, supplemented by an £8.2m offer of support from UK Government Regional Growth Fund. More details about the new hatchback including pricing, engine line-up and equipment levels will be released closer to the car’s sales launch.

The as yet un-named hatchback will mark Nissan’s return to the mainstream medium sector segment and confirms their continued expansion under their ‘Power 88’ scheme, a wide-ranging, six-year business plan that will accelerate the company’s growth across new markets and segments. The plan is for the fiscal years 2011 to 2016. Production for the new car will be around 80,000 units, which will require the introduction of another shift involving around-the-clock operation for the first time in the plant’s history.

Nissan has one of the most comprehensive European presences of any overseas manufacturer, employing more than 14,500 staff overall. The company now offers 24 diverse and innovative products for sale in Europe today, and is positioned to become the number one Asian brand on the continent. This latest move marks an unprecedented period of investment in the Sunderland plant which includes the building of the highly successful Qashqai ‘crossover’ and the all-electric LEAF model. A major recruitment campaign is now taking place. Roles immediately available include engineering, maintenance and production supervisor positions. Following long periods of recession hit misery in the North East the good people of Sunderland and the surrounding area must be over the moon at this success story.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)

Pothole Review – Minister Acts (sort of)

Every winter, across the nation, motorists voices are raised in both anguish and anger about the state of the nation’s roads. Well now, after what seems a long time for it to sink in, the Government have finally published The Pothole Review. Great name, like something you’d see in an old music hall act: “Potholes? We’ll have to look into them!”

The Review, part of the Coalition’s £6 million Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme, looks at how best to not only fix the holes but also how to prevent them in the first place. The fact that drivers, motoring organisations and transport companies have all been parroting the solutions for years hasn’t stopped central Government from giving the same advice to local authorities across England on how to tackle the problem.

The recommendations fall into three basic themes: On the basis that prevention is better than cure, intervening at the right time will reduce the formation of potholes thus preventing problems later. This means resurfacing where it is needed and doing the job properly. There are various ways to renew a road and that which appears to be the most expensive will probably work out cheaper in the long run.

Doing the job ‘right first time’ means you do it once and get it right, rather than face continuous bills. Finally, councils and the Highways Agency need to communicate with the public, letting them know what is being done and when. Motorblogger might choose to add that if these worthy civil servants listened to drivers in the first place then they may be able to react more quickly. Perhaps the emergence of a Pothole App – (Motorblogger 07/04/12) – will make them pay attention.

Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said:

“We all know the misery that potholes can cause to highway users and local communities and the recent series of harsh winters has only served to intensify the situation. We’ve given £3 billion to councils for road maintenance over the next four years but money can only go so far and the old adage rings true: prevention is indeed better than cure. I would urge all those involved with highways maintenance, including councillors, chief executives, local highway practitioners, those in the utility sector and contractors to adopt the approaches set out in this report, not only to make real cost savings but also to provide a high quality service that both the road user and local residents deserve.”

Let’s hope that it is not all talk and paperwork and that we will finally some co-ordinated action on English roads. We’ll be watching.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)