Archive | July, 2012

Women Drivers Penalised

You know girls; right? The ladies. The ones that wear inappropriate shoes when driving and think that a clutch is a small bag you take out in the evening. Well, some time ago it was announced that those astute and clear headed thinkers in the EU decided that men had been getting a bit of a raw deal when it comes to car insurance. Apparently women have been getting cheaper premiums and that just wasn’t fair. In EU speak it’s called ‘gender discrimination’ and it is to be outlawed at the end of 2012. This legislation meant that premiums for women drivers would take a hike upwards. There was even a suggestion that insurance for male drivers might even go down. How we all laughed at that one.

Not being the types to miss jumping on a bandwagon when they see one, the insurance companies have begun to increase prices for younger women drivers well in advance of the legislation date, when premiums are expected to rise by 25% for the fairer sex. In May, women under 23 saw an increase of some 11.4% in the cost of premiums. Companies, quite rightly, have been accused of using the rule change as a front for profiteering.

All drivers know that the days of cheaper deals for loyal customers are long gone and most of us expect to switch insurers every year. This is a time consuming nuisance. An example quoted is of a young woman who paid £1300 last year. After twelve months of claim free driving and being a year older she was quoted £1600 by her insurer. What a rip-off. She subsequently paid £750 elsewhere. AA Insurance have reported that female premiums rose by 4.8% in the first three months of 2012 and this is sure to accelerate as the end of the year approaches.

Unsurprisingly, the Association of British Insurers are throwing up their hands in a sort of “What us, guv?” manner. They apparently cannot explain why this is happening. A spokesman said – having finished counting a large pile of banknotes and booking a family holiday in the Maldives probably – that any increases would be down to individual insurers. They could only assume that the increases are down to their recent claims experience. Yeah, right.

One experienced observer points out that insurers move in herds, like dinosaurs devouring all before them, and that they are ‘aligning’ themselves ready for the end of the year, rather than banging in a whopping increase in December. This is of course no consolation to women drivers who have always thought that action to get rid of discrimination against their gender was supposed to work in their favour rather than against it.

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Jaguar Rings The Changes With The XJ

Although purists may mourn its passing, the old normally aspirated 5.0 litre V8 in the excellent Jaguar XJ is shortly to be no more, at least in the UK. In these eco-enlightened times Jaguar have replaced that famous unit with a more efficient engine in their new generation model.

Jaguar, not that many years ago considered a spent force, have been relentless with their R&D programme since the company was bought by the giant Tata organisation. There isn’t a bad car in the range and the new XJ is the latest to introduce improved efficiency, comfort and functionality.

The XJ has received a major make-over with refined developments in engine and gearbox technology. The old V8 gives way to a lighter supercharged V6 of just 3.0 litres. The petrol version is not as powerful as its predecessor but makes up for that with much improved fuel economy and lower emissions. A variation of this power plant will appear in the much anticipated F-Type sports car. The likelihood is, however, that most buyers will go for the three litre V6 diesel version which only pumps out 159g/km of the evil fumes whilst delivering a stonking 600Nm of torque and an abstemious fuel consumption of 47mpg – impressive in such a big vehicle.

To further enhance the performance of this all-aluminium car the company will introduce an eight-speed ZF gearbox that incorporates Stop-Start technology both of which improve consumption and efficiency. The XJ also benefits from recalibrated spring and shock-absorber settings ensuring that passengers will be cosseted in a truly comfortable environment, remaining isolated from the worst excesses of British roads.

On the infotainment front DAB is now standard within a new premium quality 825W sound system developed in conjunction with the British audio specialists Meridian. The system boasts much lower levels of harmonic distortion which apparently means that clarity is better and less power is used. The top-of-the-range unit has twenty (count them!) speakers and will be standard on the Portfolio and Supersport models. Lesser versions can get this Ministry of Sound rivalling system as an option.

If customers want something really special they can opt for the above mentioned 503bhp Supersport version which comes with special trim embellishments and badge work plus an active limited-slip diff. The XJ continues to be a best seller enjoying a rise in sales of 11% last year. With its advanced construction, comfort and performance this new model is sure to rival the best in the class. It’s competitively priced too!

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Luxury Auto Treats

Great news! Just when life in 2012 can’t get any more depressing, what with the economy and our bank accounts being in tatters, summer floods, washed-out festivals and Jimmy Carr taking the food from children’s mouths, it’s good to know that those kind philanthropic folk at McLaren and Aston Martin are thinking of us poor impoverished motorists. They’ve opened a retail shop!

That’s right. The first UK store dedicated to these world class sporting legends has opened in Westfield Stratford City – London’s latest prime shopping venue. Do you know, you’ll be able to buy a McLaren watch for as little as £9000? They’ll also be happy to sell you Aston Martin lifestyle clothing, luggage, shades and replica toy cars as well as associated up-market brands. You can even buy key rings. Gain the admiration of friends when you chuck your AM branded keys onto the pub table. (Don’t forget to park the 106 around the corner before you go in!). The centrepiece will be examples of Jenson’s and Lewis’s F1 cars for added glamour.

Clearly, this is a marketing ploy ready for the influx of hundreds of thousands of culture starved foreigners over here for the Olympics. This unique business opportunity has been dreamed up by the Prodrive organisation which up until now has only marketed these luxury items to the trade. The Westfield complex, with its aspirational shops and close proximity to the Olympic venues was obviously seen as the ideal location.

Enthusiasts are already well catered for anyway. Car related goods are always available at racing venues and shows, online and from motoring clubs; it’s hard to see how this shop will succeed in the long term once the cash-rich tourists have gone home and we all settle down to bask in the glories of the British winter.

Never mind: there are no sour grapes as it has always been so. With luxury cars come luxury lifestyle goods and there‘s nothing wrong with that. Maserati, Ferrari and Porsche have done it successfully for years but always in a subtle way. The items are there if you want them at the dealers. That way it all becomes part of the package of buying into an expensive auto brand instead of just high street designer chic.

McLaren are one of the biggest names in motor sport and also offer brilliant road cars. Aston Martin are a byword for British elegance and class and their cars have never been better or more desirable. Does opening what is essentially a flash high street shop make their image any better?

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