Archive | August, 2013

Know Where You Stand With Car Costs

Car manufacturers are always coming up with new and better ways to attract customers to their brand. Special offers, obviously, and cut price accessories are pretty much the norm these day so more inventive ideas are coming to the fore.

Auto companies have realised that the average driver is struggling to keep car costs under control. Fixed price routine servicing is one more recent phenomenon. Now, and expect to see it spread like a bushfire, SEAT have stolen a march on the other brands with an online tyre ordering service designed to make the process as simple as possible.

The company say it is a quick and easy service with a wide variety of rubber on offer. The work will be done on their premises and the company are quoted as saying that tyres will cost from forty pounds per unit and that the final cost will be inclusive of fitting, balancing and disposal of the old tyres.

Browsers on the main SEAT website will have the use of an online web tool. This will make recommendations based on the car and the other usual parameters and in a regularly updated database will score those recommendations on the basis of price, fuel economy, wet grip, stopping distance and noise. Buyers can refine the choice until the right tyre stands out and can be ordered. The buyer can then turn up at their dealer at the appointed time knowing in total how much it is going to cost.seatyre1 Know Where You Stand With Car Costs

Now, sceptical readers will be pointing out under their breath that buying anything from main dealer is normally the most expensive way of doing it. This of course is often the case but think of the alternative. There will be the usual tiresome trawl around the independent tyre market, scratching around for savings. Once this is achieved it may well be that the savings are not as big as first thought, possibly because of the sundry extras that seem to be added on at the end.

Buying from your dealer gives you control. You know where, when and how much and who from and all from one visit to a website. That has just got to be worth money and, of course, you know who to go back to if not satisfied. A dealer will want your return business.

SEAT already offer their ‘It’s Fixed!’ pricing policy on servicing. How convenient would it be for your tyres to be changed at the regular service interval if ordered at the same time as booking? A one-stop shop. Now that is convenient. Expect other manufacturers to follow suit in short order.

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A Bright Day On Dark Roads.

At the time of writing this it is warm, sunny, a pleasant breeze is blowing and your Editor is wearing shorts. You probably didn‘t want to know that. The reason it is mentioned at all is that it seems a bit callous to start making reference to the forthcoming misery and dark roads of Winter, but, hey! don’t shoot the messenger, right?

As the clocks go back onto Winter time the road safety charity Brake is calling on all employers to support their ‘Bright Day’ initiative to promote safer roads for cyclists and pedestrians. It seems that two pedestrians and cyclists are killed and 25 are seriously injured every day in the UK.

The ‘Bright Day’ campaign is to raise awareness of this and thus, hopefully, help to reduce these tragic events and raise funds for use with road safety and to support the injured or bereaved.

The idea is – and some of you low-profile types are not going to like this – that ‘Bright Days’ are dress-down days with a difference. Employees are to be encouraged to wear their absolutely very brightest clothes – whatever they like – in return for stumping up a small donation. The thinking is that this will raise awareness amongst drivers to be keeping a look-out of the more vulnerable road users, especially as the nights draw in.

The clocks go back on Sunday 27 October, and employers are urged to plan their Bright Day to coincide with this time of year when it gets darker earlier and there’s a heightened risk to people on foot and bike. This is a fun and simple way for businesses and organisations to get behind the message. Employees (and the boss) get to dress in high-viz gear and walkers and cyclists are encouraged to do the same but with the real thing and not the comedy outifts. It could also help promote the business by alerting the community and local media to the event day.

Last year over eighteen thousand pounds was raised as companies around the country got involved with the scheme. So dig out your neon tutu and flourescent leg-warmers (the ladies might like to do this as well) or your high-viz dayglo pyjamas and run a fun dress-down day in support of the ‘Bright Day’ campaign. Raising awareness might help to save lives in future and that life could be yours. Check out the Brake website for details.

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Renault Scenic XMOD – A Fine Family Car

Renault’s popular Scenic has been with us now since 1996, yet the company continue to evolve the model and it remains a popular family choice. Well, now they’ve done it again with a refreshed design and some of the very latest technology. For the purposes of this article we’ve chosen the XMOD version. This is because, although it has no claim to any real off-road ability is perhaps the better choice for the outdoor family.

The restyling carries design hints from the new Clio and big brother, the Captur. With this new car the rather pedestrian nature of predecessors has been thoroughly upgraded. It’s a versatile car that is also, for its type, a decent drive.

The Scenic XMOD has a sort of crossover appeal with its additional butch body trim and this look might not appeal to all Scenic fans, but otherwise there is plenty to recommend this car. The car features ‘Grip Xtend’ which is supposed to deliver extra traction on rough surfaces. There are three different settings: Expert, Road and Loose Ground, selected via a rotary control in the cabin. The vehicle is fitted with mud and snow tyres for additional security as standard.RSX Renault Scenic XMOD   A Fine Family Car

As previously mentioned this is no off-roader but may well give an extra sense of security on Britain’s rough roads during the Winter. Motor Blogger has tried it on grass and gravel and it does seem to seek out that little bit of extra grip. With the added bonus of winter tyres this seems like the ideal car for the school run.

Boot space has increased over the previous Renault Scenic to 555 litres, which compares well with the competition. There is 71 litres worth of storage space in the cabin too and the seats are individually foldable and removable. The interior is comfortable and roomy. There’s a choice of four engines on offer. For its type, this is car is good to drive. Performance is perfectly adequate, the seats are supportive and the high-riding view out is excellent. As you would expect, all the usual goodies are either standard or on the options list. The Bose sound system is especially good.

The car industry does rather like to talk up its products in over-the-top language and Renault are no different. The company says that this car has been ‘designed for men who are more than just dads, ready for their own adventures’. Is it likely to bring out the explorer lurking within suburban fathers? No; but when it comes to moving the family about the countryside then it is just the job.

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Air-Con Quandary

The pollutants produced in the manufacture and running of cars has been under scrutiny for fifty years or more and as time has gone on there have been many clean green advances in the science. We have now reached the stage where cars pollute the atmosphere far less than was ever dreamed about a few scant decades ago.

Now though, an argument, or debate, has arisen over the type of refrigerant used in car air-conditioning systems. Toyota said it has switched back to using the air conditioner refrigerant known as R134a for some Toyota and Lexus models in Europe in response to public pressure in Germany.

Up until now R134a has been banned from new vehicles built in the EU since the start of the year to meet climate protection targets. The problem seems to be that  the replacement labelled R1234yf is, according to German car makers Daimler/Mercedes-Benz, a potential fire hazard. The suggestion is that one risk is replaced by another.

The result is that Toyota are now saying that they have equipped three models with the old refrigerant in order to respect customers’ safety concerns because of this controversy in Germany. The Japanese company doesn’t actually have a problem with the new refrigerant but did not want to be sucked into the increasingly acrimonious debate.

That debate is with the French Government. Daimler is challenging a French ban on its Mercedes cars that use the old refrigerant. Authorities in France have refused to register Mercedes A-class, B-class and CLA-class models built since mid-June because they use R-134a and do not comply with the EU directive. Daimler, on the other hand, says the vehicles are type-approved in Germany and should be allowed to be registered anywhere in the EU.

France fights back by saying that the ban is legally permissible under an EU law that protects the environment and public health and a French court is going to decide this political issue. France is the only European country to stop the registrations of cars with this refrigerant. This could rumble on as it is yet another case where national and European issues overlap and clash. It has to be said that there does not seem to have been any issues with the old refrigerant so drivers shouldn’t be concerned either way until and if there is some substance to the suggestion. In the meantime the motor industry becomes another political football.

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Age Affects Car Finance Preferences

Middle-age. Don’t you just hate terms like that? All encompassing expressions that take no account of individual differences. If you are middle-aged you will be between 35 and 44 years old. That’s the official statistic. This therefore implies that if you are 45, you are old. Charming.

Yet this terminology is still in use. Apparently, according to some new research, if you fall into this age group and intend to buy a car you are most likely to use dealer financing. Buyers over 65 – which, following the advice above, puts you in the same bracket as Stonehenge or the Dead Sea Scrolls – much prefer to use cash. Presumably this would be kept under the mattress as ‘old people don’t trust banks’. Actually, thinking about it, nobody trusts banks these days!

It is also suggested that these ancient Methuselah’s, being so very wise and careful with their money, are more likely to hang onto their cars for longer whilst saving the money for a new one. This, it seems, is muddle-headed thinking, you poor old souls, as keeping cars for the long term is false economy. Newer cars have better fuel economy and improved safety features; whereas the older car will be liable for more VED and will need more expensive repairs. A new car, changed regularly, will be under warranty. What isn’t mentioned in these stats is the stunning depreciation in your investment as soon as it leaves the forecourt. This is money that will never be recovered and is likely always to be more than the possible additional costs aforementioned.

So, forty four per cent of car owners would buy a car for cash whereas 13% of those polled would prefer some form of financing or contract hire. Less then ten per cent would go for the bank loan option (too shifty, the lot of ‘em) and three per cent would go down the borrowing from friends and family route. The rest of the respondents said they had no plans to buy another car, although this figure is skewed by virtue of the fact that some areas of the country are forced to be car-dependent whereas city dwellers have other choices.

The fact that women are less likely to choose dealer finance seems to suggest that the industry hasn’t yet gained the confidence of females in the still very much man-centric showrooms.

Most people appreciate that a nice car is a pleasure that also helps to make life better. However individuals or age groups choose to buy their next car one thing is for certain: Dealers are saying that with interest rates at an all time low there has not been a better to seek financing than through them. This may well be sound advice just now but then, of course, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

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Massive Volkswagen Campaign At The Frankfurt Show

When you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll. That presumably is the philosophy of the good people at Volkswagen because, at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show to be held next month, they are showcasing no less than fifty three vehicles on a 8,893m² stand in Hall No.3.

Although times are tough in the new car industry these days, VW seem to have the capacity and resilience to just keep the good stuff coming. The brand highlights are the world premiere of the e-Golf and the new Golf R, plus one further model we‘ve yet to see.

Thanks to their success in the World Rally Championship with Sebastien Ogier leading the charge, this year they are using that sport as one of their main themes along with their four-wheel drive 4MOTION technology and ‘Think Blue’, targeted at the ecological stance of their ‘Bluemotion’ vehicles.

The overarching theme however is ‘Electrifying’. This motto not only refers to e-mobility as represented in Frankfurt by products such as the e-Golf, e-up! and XL1 along with other numerous exhibits backed up by shows on large screens. Everything about the stand takes up the “electrifying” theme and is designed to create an emotional impact on visitors. Apart from e-mobility, this includes the link between car, man and technology; connectivity or Volkswagen’s approach to other forward-looking drive-train technologies over and above e-mobility.

They even developed a feature allowing visitors to take a ‘Think Blue’ stroll past Volkswagen models which particularly feature economic and green technologies. An “Innovation Wall” provides visitors with interesting information on sustainability, technologies and innovations.VW2 Massive Volkswagen Campaign At The Frankfurt Show

There is much to applaud about Volkswagen these days. They really do seem to have their finger on the worldwide pulse when it comes to the cars we want to drive. OK, some of the vehicles on offer are not the most exciting, but when it comes to offering a variety across economy and through into performance they are going to be hard to beat. No wonder they need a big stand!

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Women In Hard Hats Shock

Amazingly, here in the 21st Century, some people – mentioning no names – still view the existence of women in industry holding down jobs that are, in the opinion of these Luddites, the domain of men. The sight of a female wearing a high-viz jacket and a hard hat seems to throw them into a paroxysm of distaste. What is the world coming to, etc. It is funny how, nearly two hundred years on, Victorian values still stick in some minds.

Thankfully, modern employers don’t feel that way and will select the right man for the job even if it is a woman. The good news then from Land Rover is that they are actively seeking out female students to apply for its new scholarship programme for young women looking to pursue a career in engineering.

The scholarship is worth some nine thousand pounds to each of three lucky beneficiaries over a period of three years, thus providing a small but useful source of income during the training.

The campaign was launched by none other than Zara Philips (Tindall) who spoke of the service by her Grandmother who worked as a mechanical engineer in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during wartime. She also made reference to her Mother, the Princess Anne, who is patron of WISE; an organisation that helps young women achieve jobs in engineering. The scholarship highlights Land Rover’s commitment to increasing the number of female engineers in the UK. Numbers are small just now, but rising slowly.

According to a report published by Engineering UK, Britain needs to double the number of engineering graduates and triple the number of engineering apprentices by 2020 to meet industry needs. At present, just thirteen per cent of engineering undergraduates are female, a problem Land Rover is determined to address. In addition to the Range Rover Evoque WISE Scholarship (to give it its full name), Land Rover already runs specific training schemes to support ambitious female engineers.

The Range Rover Evoque WISE Scholarship is funded by the 2012 MacRobert Award, the premier UK award for engineering. The judges credited the ingenuity of the Land Rover engineers who succeeded in packaging key components under the vehicle floor, “with millimetre accuracy”.

This is good news for industry and good news for women. Maybe we will see true equality within the autmotive sector in the coming years and are finally able to drop the expression, ‘jobs for the boys’.

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Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad

Show of hands. Do you prefer cycling or driving? Thought so – you wouldn’t be on this page, otherwise. Nevertheless, you can do both. It’s allowed. Cycling is, after all, great exercise and you are out of the tin box and into the fresh air. The trouble is that cycling as a pastime or a mode of transport has been high-jacked in recent years by a sort of two wheeled single interest group who will have no truck with any ideas but their own.

The problem with these monomaniacs is they can’t see the wood for the trees. The ideas that they promote take no account whatever of the problems caused by following their strict doctrine. Let me explain. These hardcore obsessive’s believe that cars are the work of the devil and that they alone are responsible for the eco-ills of the world even though that is not true. Many different issues combine to do that. Certainly they use cars – which is something of an hypocrisy – but they think that motorised vehicles should be controlled to an infinite degree. This is fine up to a point if the rider concerned is a city dweller. Moving about our major urban areas on a bike makes a lot of sense but it’s only a percentage of the population who can do that. Most of us, for one reason or another, need a car.

One of the most argued points – and one that will come to fruition – is the twenty mile-per-hour speed limits in built up areas. If these bike riders care about the environment as much as they say then do they not realise that a car going at 20mph creates more pollution that one going at thirty.

This is because, almost certainly, the car will have to be propelled in a lower gear, causing the engine to work harder and thus create more emissions. Simple and obvious. The majority of cars will be fine in fourth gear at 30mph using low revs; at twenty it’s a different story.

Holland is held up as an enlightened country when it comes to cycling and this is indeed true. The difference is that, from the outset of modern motorised transport they understood that, as a cycling nation anyway, they would have to build their cyclist infrastructure alongside that of cars. That’s the key.

In the UK, we have idiotic councils who, in a ‘we must be seen to be green’ sort of way, put in ridiculous little bits of cycle lanes almost as an afterthought. You’ve seen the pictures in the press. The safety of bike riders will only be fully sorted when true, dedicated cycle lanes criss-cross the entire country, regardless of whether it is urban or countryside.

Motorists get a bad press. Certainly there are many idiots out there – it’s why we have laws – but most drivers are perfectly responsible and know full well that they must drive with safety in mind, especially in busy urban areas. If the argument against cars were more even-handed then maybe we would all get on our bikes.

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Porsche Panamera Hybrid Heralded A Success

Say what you like about the Porsche Panamera – and people often do – there can be no doubt that it has become a mainstay of the Porsche range. When this car first appeared about four years ago, reviewers rated it ugly. It has received a facelift a while back and, it has to be said that like an affectionate mongrel dog, it grows on you.

Motor Blogger’s editor is particularly smitten with this luxury vehicle and has never understood the resistance to its looks. It is sleek and elegant and is loaded with Porsche’s legendary reliability. What’s not to love? Over 100,000 worldwide car buyers can’t all be wrong.

On May 15th this year a Panamera S E-Hybrid drove off the assembly line at the Porsche plant in Leipzig, Germany, and it set a new technological benchmark as the first plug-in hybrid of the luxury class. In addition to the Panamera S E-Hybrid with its powerful 416 horsepower, two luxurious Executive versions with an extended wheelbase are making their debut.

The new Panamera S E-Hybrid assumes the top position among the individual Panamera models with advancements in both efficiency and sportiness. The ten versions of the Panamera that are offered, each with individual and unique properties, represent a range that is unprecedented in the Gran Turismo segment. What’s more impressive is that the built-in advanced technology has resulted in fuel savings of up to fifty six percent without detracting from the comfort, individuality and fun of driving the vehicle.

To further optimise the experience of driving this car, all models of the new generation offer greater fuel efficiency and – with the exception of the diesel model – more power. The power of the V6 engine in the Panamera and Panamera 4 has been increased by 10hp to 310 hp while fuel consumption in the two versions has been reduced. The power of the sporty GTS with a naturally aspirated V8 engine was also increased by ten horsepower to 440 hp which, it has to be said, is plenty. yet it consumes 0.8 l/100 km less than in the previous model. In addition to the new S E-Hybrid, there is the Panamera Diesel, which is still the long distance specialist.

It goes without saying that Porsche make desirable cars. The changes in design may move with glacial pace but under the skin this is state of the art automotive technology. With the new Hybrid the German company can now claim that green issues are now part of its remit too.

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Crackdown On The Uninsured

Having a car accident is bad enough; having a car accident with an uninsured driver is worse. Some of these people will claim poverty in which case how can they afford to run a car; others just couldn’t care less about other people’s property and treat society with contempt.

Apparently, the actions of this, it has to be said, large minority group leads to an effective surcharge of £33 on all our insurance premiums. Not for the first time there is a bit of an uproar about this. Despite it being a known problem it is still going on. A reduced number of traffic police doesn’t help but, with the added advantages of modern technology like ANPR cameras, you’d think that this is something that should pretty well be eliminated.

In short, four out of every five of Britain’s law abiding drivers are fed up and want a crackdown on these misery makers. According to a leading insurance provider around one in twenty five drivers are not insured. There are millions of cars on our roads. Think about it. This statistic means that the chances of being hit by one of these people is greater than almost all other European countries. How come they can do it and we cannot?

New rules have recently come into force raising the fixed penalty for driving without insurance from £200 to £300. Big deal. Uninsured drivers know their chances of being caught are slim and even if they are, £300 is hardly a deterrent. Many of these illegal motorists have a string of convictions anyway and, even for those that don’t, the fine still will probably be less than they would pay for a premium! For example, offenders are often young men, but the typical cost of car insurance for a man aged between 17 and 22 with a clean licence is four times the size of the new fixed penalty at £1,211. So, in insurance terms that’s a pretty good deal.

It is sobering thought that uninsured drivers are responsible for the deaths of around one hundred people every year. Thousands more are injured. It seems that a majority of drivers favour prison and even more believe electronic tagging is also a viable choice. Obviously cars should be confiscated and crushed. Of the 11,000 illegally driving individuals that were actually prosecuted last year most had already been banned from driving! No wonder safe drivers in the UK are up in arms!

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