A third of drivers ignoring mobile phone rules.

Despite high profile government and police campaigns highlighting the dangers of using a mobile when driving, many motorists are still flouting the law and putting their lives, and those of other road users, at risk. A new study for Kwik Fit, the UK’s leading automotive servicing and repair company, reveals that a third (34%) of drivers are still using their mobile phone without a handsfree set.

The figures are especially alarming as the most recent government statistics show that in five years there was a 24% increase in the number of accidents in which a contributory factor was the driver being distracted by using a mobile phone.

Kwik Fit’s study revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of drivers use their satnav or GPS on their phone, while almost one in five say they take calls (19%) or read text messages (17%). One in six (16%) make calls without a handsfree set, with around one in eight (12%) sending texts. Although some drivers claim they only use their phone in an emergency, more than half a million motorists admit to making calls on almost every journey they make.

Four months on from the introduction of increased penalties for mobile phone use, many drivers remain unaware of the laws and the penalties for breaking them. More than two in five people (43%) do not know that the penalty for using a hand-held phone when driving is six points. The additional focus on inexperienced drivers has also passed many people by, with only 47% of Brits knowing that those caught using a phone without a handsfree set in their first two years will lose their licence.

It is worrying that it is the youngest drivers who are the most ignorant about mobile phone rules, despite the use of a handheld mobile phone having been illegal since before they started driving. Drivers aged 18-24 are nearly three times more likely than the average motorist to believe it’s legal to use your phone when stopped at traffic lights, and twice as likely to say you can answer calls but not make outgoing ones, and that drivers are allowed to use their phone in slow moving traffic. All these statements are incorrect.

It is also the youngest drivers who are most likely to have experienced trouble on the road due to mobile phone use. 40% of 18-24 year olds have either had a collision or near miss, or got involved in an argument because somebody was using their mobile phone, more than double the figure for all drivers. Almost one in ten (8%) drivers aged 18-24 say they have had a collision because they were distracted by their mobile phone, with a further 8% saying they have almost done so. This compares with figures of 2% and 3% respectively for all drivers.

While many of these collisions may be minor bumps with no injury, government data reveals that there has been a large increase in serious accidents where a contributory factor has been the driver using a mobile phone. The number of accidents in which people were killed or seriously injured increased by 25% between 2011 and 2015, the most recent years for which full data is available. Although the number of fatal accidents in which a driver has been distracted by a mobile phone has remained consistent at an average of 22 per year – there has been a big rise in the number of accidents resulting in serious or slight injuries.

Flouting the laws on mobile phone use is most common in London, where nearly half of drivers (47%) say they use their phone without a handsfree set. The most law abiding region is the East of England, yet even here, almost a quarter (24%) admit to breaking the law when it comes to mobile phone use.

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “The findings of this study are very worrying indeed. While car manufacturers have made great strides in improving safety, it is vital that drivers remember that they are the most important safety feature in the vehicle. Any form of distraction can have serious consequences, as sadly, the statistics clearly show.

“It is especially important for inexperienced drivers to be fully focused on what they are doing. The fact that this report has found that younger drivers have less knowledge of the rules and are more likely to take risks means more needs to be done to educate them in the very first weeks and months of driving. Kwik Fit is working with schools and colleges around the country to hold events aimed at improving the safety of those drivers who are new to the road and education on the use of mobiles is an important part of that.”

Any school, college or other youth group who would like to hold a free road safety event can contact their local Kwik Fit centre who can help arrange it.

For the latest news and updates from Kwik Fit, customers can also follow the company on Twitter at @kwik_fit.

Christopher Macgowan


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JLR boss says diesel debate is dominated by misinformation.

The UK boss of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is warning improvements in air quality could be delayed if the diesel debate continues to be dominated by misinformation. Speaking at the International Automotive Summit organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Jeremy Hicks (pictured) argued that diesel cars are being unfairly targeted.

Calling the current debate a “misnomer”, JLR’s managing director said: “What we’ve had so far hasn’t been so much of a debate, as a diatribe or at best a monologue.” In fact, campaign body FairFuel UK accused “environmentalists and opportunist politicians” of manipulating the argument, damaging residual values, while ignoring significant other sources of NOx and particulate pollution.

Howard Cox, the founder of FairFuel UK, said: “Drivers want solutions to lowering emissions that don’t involve ineffectual and malevolent knee-jerk tax hikes.”  His comments came as Westminster City Council launched a new £2.45 parking surcharge for pre-2015 diesel cars in central London. Dubbed the ‘D-Charge’, it is being trialled in Hyde Park, Marylebone and parts of Fitzrovia (area around the BT Tower), with diesel drivers now having to pay 50% more to park. It costs £4.90 an hour to park in Westminster, but pre-2015 diesel cars will now be charged £7.35.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also revealed plans to introduce a zero emission zone in central London from 2025.

Hicks said: “The impression being given is the way to improve air quality in our cities is simply to ban diesel cars, but it’s not quite that simple.” A recent report from the London Assembly’s environment committee highlighted how diesel cars were responsible for 11% of NOx in London, compared to gas central heating (16%) and diesel plant and machinery (14%). Hicks said: “There has been a seismic shift in diesel [engine] technology almost eliminating NOx.”

Since 2000, NOx emissions from cars have fallen by 62.8% and harmful particulates by 52.7%, according to the SMMT. Under the latest Euro 6 standards, the NOx emissions of petrol and diesel are approaching parity – 60mg/km for petrol and 80mg/km for diesel (limits for previous Euro 5 diesel were 180mg/km), although real-world testing by Emissions Analytics shows wide variances with the official figures.  Hicks said: “If air quality is going to improve, our vision has to be broader than the private motorist.” Otherwise, he warned, a dip in diesel sales could starve the industry of funds to plough back into developing new powertrains. He concluded: “It would be tragic for our environment and our mobility if these developments were delayed because of the negative impact of a mishandled and misinformed diesel debate.” 

Author: Elizabeth Howlett


Christopher Macgowan


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Gergely Raccuja wins Wolfson Economics Prize.

A recent graduate from UCL has won the £250,000 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize, for his answer to the question “How can we pay for better, safer, more reliable roads in a way that is fair to road users and good for the economy and the environment?”

His entry, “Paying for road use could be Miles Better”, went head to head on a shortlist of five, judged by senior policymakers including the former Chancellor Lord Darling.

Gergely’s entry argued that to restore trust between politicians and motorists, fuel duty and VED should be scrapped and replaced with a simple and fair distance-based charge that also captures road and environmental impacts.

The lighter and cleaner your vehicle is, the lower the per mile charge. He said the system will boost investment and update the way we run roads ready for a new generation of electric and autonomous vehicles.

He argued that drivers won’t be asked to pay more overall, paying in proportion to the distance they drive each year. The charge will be collected by insurers who already manage all data necessary for calculating the charge. When a driver pays their insurance, they’ll also pay their “road bill”, thus avoiding issues of privacy and reducing administration costs.

The paper explained his idea for the Office of Rail and Road to ensure drivers are guaranteed fair treatment by setting the base charge and ensuring a fair proportion of the proceeds are ring-fenced for spending on both local and national highways, pledging a “pothole-free Britain” within 5 years.

The Treasury wins too, according to Raccuja. With both the number of vehicles on the road and total vehicle mileage projected to grow, government revenue will rise over time. This will stop and reverse the growing loss to the Treasury from falling fuel duty, estimated at an extra £2.3m a day.

Gergely Raccuja was born in Budapest, Hungary and moved to the UK in 2011. He read Politics, Urban Planning and Italian at UCL, graduating in 2015 with First Class Honours. In January 2016, he started as a Graduate Transport Planner at Amey Consulting in Birmingham.

For his final submission Gergely received input from the RAC Foundation, one of Britain’s largest motoring organisations. The RAC Foundation, led by Steve Gooding, teamed up with Raccuja – going head to head with AA President Edmund King and his wife the economist Deirdre King.

The Kings’ shortlisted entry proposed the idea of Road Miles, where drivers benefit from at least 3,000 free Road Miles each year with a small charge thereafter, and adopt-a-highway naming rights to boost investment.

The 2017 Wolfson Economics prize, the third to be run, received over 120 entries from 7 countries. Judges were struck by the range of innovative ideas among the finalists.

Clearways, a team from Australia, sought to end congestion by rewarding people for changing their driving habits, while Catriona Brown proposed T-Forward, a new technology platform. Transport economists Volterra teamed up with engineering firm Jacobs to call for “Pricing for Prosperity”, eliminating fuel tax and VED and replacing them with variable charges for each journey helping drivers make better decisions on how, when and where to travel.

However, it was 27-year-old Raccuja that most impressed the team of judges, including former Chancellor Lord Darling, Chairman of Legal & General Sir John Kingman, economist Bridget Rosewell, former Deputy Mayor of London for Transport Isabel Dedring and The Times associate editor Lord Finkelstein – to scoop the £250,000 prize at an event in central London on Thursday evening.

Wolfson Prize Winner Gergely Raccuja said, “I’m over the moon, the past 2 months have been an incredible journey. I want to thank the judges for their support for Miles Better and the RAC Foundation and Amey for helping me improve the proposal. The key to our entry was to keep things simple, yet come up with an answer that was sophisticated enough to deal with an upheaval in cars and road transport which hasn’t been seen since the introduction of the motor car well over a century ago. I hope I can persuade our politicians too that everything to do with our roads could be better.”

Director of the RAC Foundation, Steve Gooding said, “To be involved in this winning entry has been a privilege, but the really crucial thing is what happens next. The common themes of several entries have been both the pressing need for change and the belief there is a better option to balance what drivers contribute to the finances of the country and what they get in return.

“Even if policy makers aren’t immediately persuaded by our arguments they know the clock is ticking for them to show they have got a plan that offers the country’s tens of millions of drivers a fair deal and keeps the country moving in increasingly challenging times.”

The founder of the Prize, Lord (Simon) Wolfson of Aspley Guise, commented, “The 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize sought a better way to pay for better roads as congestion, pollution and potholes remain a source of daily misery for millions of people: undermining our economy, environment and quality of life.

“Gergely’s entry met that challenge, and is ground-breaking, yet simple – with the backing of a major motoring organisation.

“I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Gergely and his contributors for their brilliant submission.

“Policymakers can learn much from this year’s Prize, and I hope they will take forward solutions to solve one of the greatest infrastructure challenges of modern times.”

Source: various sources.

Christopher Macgowan


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Honda would like to see the UK remaining inside the customs union.

UK automotive manufacturers want to avoid post-Brexit UK-EU trade arrangements that could impose additional costs

Honda has strongly backed the case for the UK remaining inside the EU’s customs union after it leaves the EU in 2019. The UK government has previously said that the UK will leave the EU’s single market and the EU customs union as part of the plans to leave the EU.

Speaking at the SMMT’s International Summit in London, Ian Howells (Senior Vice President, Honda Motor Europe) warned that a business environment that supports and encourages free and frictionless trade is necessary to enable companies like Honda to seize business opportunities, ‘particularly in the light of the UK’s departure from the EU’. “To us, free and frictionless trade implies the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, for the smooth flow of goods along supply chains and simple, painless customs arrangements,” he said. “All of which the European Union’s customs union currently provides.”

He said that the more Honda digs into the detail of what leaving the EU’s customs union after Brexit would mean, the ‘more complexity we discover’. Howells warned that that leaving the EU would “create additional cost to our business as well as create complex technical and regulatory challenges for civil servants and businesses alike”. Howells said that continued membership of the EU customs union could provide significant benefits for the ongoing success of the UK’s automotive sector.

“By remaining inside we avoid customs tariffs,” he said. “Tariffs would erode the competitiveness of OEMs as well as companies throughout the supply chain. Not having tariffs enables UK operations to compete fairly with EU-based carmakers. Under WTO rules that would apply if we left the customs union without an EU-UK free trade agreement, cars would attract a 10% tariff and parts would face 4.5% tariffs. High tariffs would reduce the competitiveness of UK exports to the EU while the [reciprocal] imposition of tariffs on parts imported from the EU would drive up the costs for manufacturing in the UK, regardless of where in the world the products are sold.”

Howells also pointed out that being in the customs union avoids the complexity of applying ‘rules of origin’. “All free trade agreements use these rules to determine which goods can benefit from reduced duties and other preferential treatment,” he said. “These rules usually state that a product must contain 50-60% of originated content to benefit from reduced tariffs. The reality is that only 40% or so of the components used to build a modern car can be sourced in the UK and not all of that would be customs originating as local suppliers often source from abroad. “The upshot of that would be not being able to meet rules of origin thresholds and the UK automotive sector would therefore not stand to gain from trade deals with the EU or rest of the world without significant divergence from current practice.

“Staying in the EU customs union avoids costly and complex compliance on goods traded with the EU.
“Further, by pooling UK and EU content, we would also continue to benefit on preferential treatments from EU free trade deals with third countries. Simple EEA membership [European Economic Area – a free trade zone that includes EFTA countries] or a free trade deal would not be sufficient. Compliance with rules of origin currently imposes heavy costs on Norway and other EEA members not in the EU customs union.”

Howells also stressed the importance of maintaining pan-European supply chains for automotive manufacturing in Britain, with a high proportion of components coming from European factories. “As we operate a highly efficient just-in-time manufacturing process, we rely on goods being able to move smoothly across the EU-UK border, arriving at the factory at the right time. Production at Swindon relies on the timely delivery of two million components daily; some 350 truckloads a day are EU-sourced parts. We hold components for one hours’ worth of production line-side, and hold just half a day’s worth of EU and UK sourced components in local warehouses. Given this finely balanced system, any disruption to the flow of goods to the factory could interrupt our ability to continue to produce cars efficiently at Swindon. By remaining in the customs union, we avoid these risks.”

Howells also pointed out that additional border checks on goods would mean more spending on infrastructure and staff for new customs checks at EU-UK borders. In addition, he said new customs procedures would create new administrative and IT burdens for UK companies.
All member states of the EU are inside the trade bloc’s customs union (and the EU single market, which covers services and free movement of people, as well as physical goods), but membership of the customs union is also available to non-EU members. Turkey, for example, is not in the EU but is inside the EU’s customs area following a customs agreement signed in the mid-1990s. 

On the plus side, Turkey has benefited from much automotive inward investment – OEMs and suppliers attracted to its low costs and easy, tariff-free shipments to the EU. However, critics point out that Turkey has been impeded from cutting trade deals with non-EU countries and is forced to accept EU free trade deals with third countries, some of which can potentially disadvantage Turkey’s domestic economy. Staying inside the EU’s customs area following EU exit would likely be politically controversial in the UK.

Christopher Macgowan


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Lotus 59 – immaculate.

Totally original as the day it was built this Lotus 59 was driven by Emerson Fittipaldi.

Christopher Macgowan 


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Call by SMMT for new UK Government to focus on strengthening automotive sector.

The SMMT has renewed calls for more focus on the automotive market from the British Government following the general election on 8 June. Despite an increase in sales and manufacturing in the UK during 2016, the sector faces change due to both technological advances and Brexit.

UK car manufacturing fell in April, according to figures released today by SMMT. 122,116 cars were made in the month, an 18.2% decrease on April 2016, as the late Easter bank holiday affected production.

Despite a decline in April 2017, vehicle manufacturing remains strong in the UK, with 593,796 cars made so far this year – a 1% increase on the same period in 2016. These figures are the level for the first four months of the year since 2000.

Demand from overseas buyers continues to drive growth, up 3.5% so far this year and offsetting a fall in UK sales of 7%. In total 76.8% of all cars made in the UK since January have been shipped abroad, with the majority going into the EU.

However, the SMMT feels that this could be under threat with changes in both technological and political landscapes. It has launched a report highlighting what needs to be done in the next five years to ensure the automotive market in the UK remains strong. With the country home to six mainstream vehicle manufacturers, nine premium and sports car manufacturers, six design centres, nine engine manufacturers and over 2,500 suppliers, the report calls on any new government to build a strong trading relationship with the EU post-Brexit, which safeguards the interests of the automotive industry.

To emphasise the need to free trade, SMMT CEO Mike Hawes comments: ‘We need to make sure we have no tariffs, no barriers, and no additional customs checks, all of which will add cost to the industry. If we were to revert to WTO there would be a significant cost attributed, around £1.8 billion (€2.1 billion) on exports, and £2.7 billion (€3.1 billion) on imports. That would translate to an increase in sticker price on a vehicle of around £1,500 (€1,700). When you consider that 80% of cars sold in the UK are imported, and therefore subject to the increase, it is easy to see who would bear the burden – the consumer.’

The report also calls for the new government to ensure a globally competitive business environment by taking an ambitious and joined-up approach to tackling issues that affect UK competitiveness, create a long-term industrial strategy, support sustainable and ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) through funding and infrastructure, and to develop a comprehensive connected and autonomous vehicle strategy, removing obstacles to their development and deployment.

Hawes adds: ‘Overall, British car manufacturing remains in good health with the production outlook still very positive and significant new models due to go into UK production shortly. To guarantee future growth and investment into our industry and its vital supply chain, however, we need the next government to safeguard the conditions that have made us globally competitive, keeping us open and trading and delivering an ambitious industrial strategy for our sector.’



Christopher Macgowan


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Ferrari at Goodwood.

An absolute highlight of this summer’s Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard will be a glittering array of at least 70 significant Ferraris, as the legendary Maranello marque celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding by il commendatore, Enzo Ferrari, in 1947.

From Thursday June 29th to Sunday July 2nd, a jaw-dropping variety of Ferrari’s finest road and racing cars will be found at the Festival, including competition sports cars and single seaters, incredible road cars, and the very latest supercars. For lovers of the iconic Italian brand, it will be a truly once in a lifetime experience.

From Ferrari’s long, continuous and hugely successful history in motorsport, a number of the most celebrated of Maranello’s racers will be in action up Goodwood’s famous 1.16-mile hill. Among these will be around 25 iconic single-seater Ferraris, covering each of the key post-war Grand Prix eras, powered by four, six, eight and 12-cylinder engines, with normal aspiration, superchargers and turbos.

Sports cars in action will chart Ferrari’s landmark successes in all the great endurance races, from the late 1940s right through to the present day. A mouth-watering line-up of current production cars will grace the Michelin Supercar Paddock, as well as running on the hill. On a calmer note, one of the classes in the popular Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ concours d’elegance will be dedicated to Ferrari’s legendary 250 models – named after the 3-litre V12 which propelled the Scuderia to countless victories on-track, as well as powering some of its most iconic road cars.

Christopher Macgowan


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