June’s news highlights

Posted on July 2nd, 2013 by Rob Marshall

convIt appears that we are buying new cars again. The press releases from various car companies championed the fact but I did not believe them, until more independent data emerged. Sure enough, the UK’s new registrations are outstripping those of our depressed European neighbours – at least, for the moment. While I was cynical and suspected that the motor industry had indulged in its customary practise of fiddling the figures and self-registering, it appears not to be the case this time. In his July 2013 editorial for the trade publication, Glass’s Guide, the chief car editor highlighted that sales to private customers had increased by 16%, compared to those of the fleet sector that had risen by less than 3%. As a new car can be had, in some cases, for the same outlay as an equivalent model, aged between 12 and 18 months-old, the values of nearly new vehicles are being hit hard.

With household budgets being so stretched, it is surprising that retail car sales are so buoyant. Writing in The Times, Robert Lea argued that the billions of pounds offered in compensation pay-outs from banks, which average £2,700 per claimant, goes some way to explain the situation; he goes further by claiming that showroom deals have never been bettered since 1979. Jody Harrison of The Herald Scotland newspaper expanded on this, by reporting that the Scots are buying new cars in greater numbers than anywhere else in the UK.

Meanwhile, both the original Mini Cooper S and the Porsche 911 celebrated their 50th anniversaries last month and the traditional British sports car maker, Morgan, has managed to break into the Chinese market, by opening its first showroom after a “long, tortuous and meticulously documented struggle with Chinese bureaucracy at its most obdurate”, as described by Leo Lewis of The Times. Motorsport fans will be encouraged that, at long last, the FIA World Rally Championship will be screened on ITV4. Maybe it is too late? The lack of any effective media coverage has hurt the WRC severely in recent years and was one of the reasons why both Ford and MINI left the championship in 2012. In any case, we are half way through this year’s season. Remaining with sport, sad news tainted the 90th anniversary Le Mans celebrations, when the Aston Martin driver, Allan Simonsen, succumbed to the injuries that he sustained in a serious accident, which occurred shortly after the start of the race.

Back in the UK, we heard that the mooted 80mph speed limit on motorways has been shelved once again, after it was announced initially at the Conservative Government’s conference in 2011. While the controversial idea has both supporters and detractors, Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, admitted that altering the limit was not a priority at the moment. Yet, I shall bet that the idea has not gone away completely.

On the repairs front, research from ‘Trust My Garage’ revealed that 67% of female drivers do not check their brake fluid levels, with a further 63% failing to check their engine’s coolant levels and just under 50% admitting that they have never checked their oil. In a positive spin, 33% check their tyre tread depth and pressures every six months but, even so, these are pretty dire statistics. Some garages are taking matters into their own hands, by taking positive and proactive action. For example, GuideBridge MOT and Service Centre, a Trust My Garage member in Ashton, Lancashire, is running free women-only courses on basic maintenance checks.

Our final slightly pointless, but summer-inspired, closing report comes from Citroen, which revealed, on the Summer Solstice, that the Borough of Elmbridge in Surrey is the UK’s ‘convertible capital’, with over 5,300 drop-tops registered, or one for approximately every 25 residents. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Eilean Siar in the Outer Hebrides has the fewest registered convertibles per person, with just one drop-top for every 468 residents. I wonder how frequently those cars further north are driven with their tops down…