Archive | December, 2009

Free iPhone app for posh plates

iPhone users can view their chosen plate "in situ" before buying

iPhone users can view their chosen plate "in situ" before buying

The iPhone has an app for pretty much everything you could desire and now it is attempting to corner the cherished number plates market. has launched a free iPhone application that allows consumers to find and buy personalised registration plates directly through their iPhone.

The developer claims it was built to keep pace with Britain’s insatiable demand for personalised licence plates.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 1 in 20 UK drivers already own a personalised number plate, spending £500 per plate on average.

Bryn Firkins, who developed the app, said: “Brits love their motors. According to Apple, 5 of the 10 most downloaded iPhone apps in the UK in 2009 were car-related.”

Since the cherished numbers scheme was launched in 1989, more than 3m plates have been sold, generating around £1.3bn in sales.

Apple claims there are now over 1.5m iPhone and iPod Touch users in the UK.

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Baby on board signs and fluffy dice symbolise the noughties

Baby on board signs and fluffy dice symbolise the noughties

Baby on board signs have topped a poll of car accessories that define the last decade.

Some 2000 members of the public cast their votes in an online Auto Trader poll to find the most iconic motoring items of the noughties.

The 5 most popular accessories were:

  1. Baby on board signs
  2. Car fresheners
  3. Nodding dogs
  4. Football memorabilia
  5. Fluffy dice

Meanwhile, sat nav was voted the most symbolic optional car extras of the decade, with alloy wheels, iPod docks, TV screens and sound systems making up the rest of the top 5.

According to GfK figures for 2007 alone, total UK sales of portable sat nav devices reached over 2.3 million, with value sales amounting to £417.9 million.

Elsewhere in the poll, the Ford Focus was voted the decade’s most iconic car, while voters said that Range Rovers have become the ultimate celebrity car, with the likes of Katie Price and Gordon Ramsay taking a shine to the 4×4 despite living in cities.

Other celebrities such as Julia Roberts, who are keen to show their ‘green’ credentials, have been seen driving the Toyota Prius, considered the most eco-friendly car of the 2000s.

The Bugatti Veyron – owned by the likes of Jenson Button and Simon Cowell – topped the list of both the “beyond your wildest dreams” and “most overpriced” car categories.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Clarkson was considered the decade’s best motoring personality, ahead of racing legends Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.

Matt Thompson, marketing director, Auto Trader, said: “From the emergence of eco-friendly cars as a viable option for consumers to the replacement of maps and asking for directions with in-car sat nav, the noughties have provided some interesting changes to the way consumers think about and drive their cars.”

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VW Golf rides crest of last scrappage wave

VW Golf rides crest of last scrappage wave

The European new car market is riding the last wave of scrappage-incentivised sales and a slowdown could be on the way, according to analyst JATO Dynamics.

VW Golf and Ford Fiesta continue as the only contenders for the 2009 top-model crown, which Golf is looking certain to secure comfortably through its almost universal popularity across Europe.

November’s top 10 selling models in Europe:

  1. VW Golf: 48,445 units
  2. Ford Fiesta: 38,953 units
  3. Renault Clio: 33,911 units
  4. Peugeot 207: 30,093 units
  5. Vauxhall Corsa: 27,433 units
  6. VW Polo: 25,287 units
  7. Fiat Punto: 25,079 units
  8. Fiat Panda: 24,910 units
  9. Renault Megane: 23,062 units
  10. Ford Focus: 22,626 units

“On first inspection, European new car sales figures look healthy but look closer and there are some ominous signs,” said David Di Girolamo, head of JATO Consult.

JATO’s monthly 27-market analysis shows that November 2009 was a significantly better month for new car sales than the same period, 2008, as expected.

However, in key markets, the sales surge is lessening as scrappage schemes close. In Germany, October 2009 sales were up 24.1%, versus. 2008; in November, this gap closed to 19.7%.

By contrast, France, Italy, Spain and the UK all returned buoyant sales figures for November – their schemes are set to endure until at least the end of 2009.

Di Girolamo said: “Already, we are seeing reduced new car imports into Europe and the extent of the decline in sales will be something to watch carefully over the next couple of months.

“You only have to look at Eastern Europe, where there are no such schemes to see a truer picture of new the car market place – demand here is significantly lower, year-on-year.”

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LPG is 3rd fuel of choice, says Autogas UK

LPG is 3rd fuel of choice, says Autogas UK

Autogas UK has given its backing to claims that liquefied petroleum gas stands out as the 3rd fuel of choice for motorists.

More than 1.6m vehicles worldwide are powered by LPG and Autogas UK believes that LPG is a realistic alternative to petrol and diesel.

While LPG is popular on the continent and particularly in Italy, the UK market has been slower to embrace the fuel.

But Autogas UK said that the UK does have the refuelling infrastructure to support more LPG vehicles. It currently has some 200 refuelling sites.

Emma Bartle, spokesperson for Autogas Limited, said: “Although electric vehicles are increasing in popularity, LPG is readily available right now with a comprehensive refuelling network throughout the UK.

“Environmental concerns run deeper than just reducing CO2 emissions. Vehicles running on LPG do produce 17% less carbon dioxide than petrol and 2% less than diesel, but also 120% fewer oxides of nitrogen than petrol and a staggering 2000 per cent less than diesel, and up to 120 times less small particle (PM10) emissions than diesel vehicles.”

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Become ATA qualified or lose air con work

Become ATA qualified or lose air con work

Motor technicians who work on air conditioning systems must join the IMI’s Automotive Technician Accreditation scheme or risk losing out on future work.

That is the warning from Jon Winter, chief executive of S&B Automotive Academy in Bristol, which provides training for those who wish to work towards the ATA.

In a statement issued this week, he said: “Motorists, insurers and fleet managers all want to know that their vehicle is in expert hands and businesses want to employ those who have the required skills.

“The ATA initiative identifies technicians who have not only proven their current competence but also signed a professional code of conduct.

“It’s a bit like an MOT test for a technician’s skills, demonstrating they are up to the job and committed to remaining competent.”

There are now only 7 months to go before new European legislation regarding the handling of refrigerant gases comes into force in July 2010.

The legislation requires anyone who handles these gases to be properly qualified and the air-conditioning route offered through the IMI’s ATA scheme has been approved by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Accreditation includes practical assessments related to the evacuation, recharge and leak testing of a vehicle’s air-con system and the handling of refrigerant gas cylinders, as well as an online knowledge test.

“It will be surprising how quickly the July deadline comes round so technicians who work on air con or garages that provide air con repair need to get themselves enrolled on a course now,” said Winter.

“Those that act will then be well placed to provide the right service required by the industry.”

Technicians considering ATA accreditation can take a self-assessment on the ATA website.

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Suspension damage costs £1m per day, says warranty firm

Potholes contribute to 6% of suspension damage, according to Warranty Direct

Potholes contribute to 6% of suspension damage, according to Warranty Direct

Garages could see suspension repair work fall if Government proposals that could spell the end of speed humps in 20mph zones are introduced.

In plans unveiled last week, the Government called for more 20mph zones after research showed they reduced road casualties by more than 40%.

To aid the creation of more ‘go-slow’ zones, councils would be allowed to implement them without also having to back them up with traffic calming measures.

Warranty Direct welcomed the proposals and said they could help UK motorists save some of the “£1m a day” they spend on repairs to suspension and axle damage.

According to the firm, 6% of suspension damage can be traced back to the effect of traffic calming measures such as sleeping policemen as well as bad road surfaces and potholes.

Warranty Direct estimates that the average repair bill is £240, which equates to a potential £413m a year or £1.1m a day across Britain’s 28.2 million cars.

The company’s spokesman, Duncan McClure Fisher, said: “Speed humps are as much of a menace as potholes, and do much the same damage.

“It’s time for the Government to rely on the common sense and good driving manners of the majority of drivers, rather than punish everyone with big repair bills.”

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Kwik-Fit wins Legal & General MAD award

 Kwik-Fit Fleet national sales manager Martin Towers with the 2009 Supply Chain Make a Difference Award

Kwik-Fit Fleet national sales manager Martin Towers with the 2009 Supply Chain Make a Difference Award

Kwik-Fit Fleet is celebrating after winning Legal & General’s 2009 Supply Chain Make a Difference Award.

The Award recognises suppliers who have made a significant improvement to their impact on the environment.

Kwik-Fit Fleet, which has provided fast-fit services to the Legal & General fleet for more than a decade, won after increasing its environmental focus following the opening of its National Distribution Centre in Corby, Northamptonshire in 2008.

The £10m complex – the size of 10 football pitches – is a tyre distribution centre and the hub of a vehicle parts recycling and logistics operation designed to reduce vehicle mileage.

The centre is the hub of a reverse logistics operation, which delivers new product and takes back worn tyres, tyre casings and scrap catalytic converters. This “one for one exchange” saves an estimated 3m miles and 3k tones of carbon per year.

The centre shreds more than 6m tyres every year and the rubber is then used in artificial sports, equestrian and children’s playground surfaces; as a fuel in the cement industry; replacing aggregate as landfill engineering; and in the manufacturing of portable rail crossing and carpet underlay.

In addition to tyres, some 40,000+ tonnes of tyre casings are remoulded and others are also shredded or crumbed. The steel cord in casings is extracted and re-used in steel making.

Other material recycled includes 1.5m exhausts, thousands of batteries, almost 500k litres of waste oil and thousands of litres of anti-freeze.

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End of the road for breakdowns?

Andrew Yeoman, managing director, Trimble

Andrew Yeoman, managing director, Trimble

Recovery operators could soon find their services in short supply. At least that’s the hope of mobile resource management company Trimble.

It says winter breakdowns will soon be a thing of the past thanks to predictive technology that identifies when a vehicle is about to fail.

Trimble already provides what it calls a “Driver DNA” GPS tracking box to commercial fleets such as British Gas and BT and it now hopes to roll it out to other businesses and the public.

Driver DNA records information about the vehicle’s location, condition and the way it is driven. It also measures battery voltage to predict a failure or non-start and advises customers via a text message or email.

In 2010, prognostics technology will be available to analyse all problems and predict a failure earlier than the driver or even the vehicle itself.

“People will no longer have to wait in the cold for someone to come and fix their vehicles as breakdowns will be prevented from happening in the first place,” said Andrew Yeoman, Trimble’s MD.

“We are proud to produce cutting-edge technology that will benefit businesses and the public.”

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Ring offers multiple gadget charging

Ring's new MP:120 inverter in action

Ring's new MP:120 inverter in action

Ring Automotive is now selling a new compact inverter in a bid to capitalise on the increasing number of gadgets taking over the nation’s cars.

These days, cars are more like mobile offices with blackberrys, mobile phones and PSPs all vying for their share of power.

But buying multiple special in-car adaptors for every piece of electrical equipment can be expensive so Ring has come up with the MP:120 compact inverter, which plugs into the cigarette lighter providing a 240v AC mains electricity supply.

The inverter provides a 120w power output and comes with a USB charging point to recharge mobile phones and MP3 players at the same time as using the 240v AC mains power.

Simon Harvey, Ring’s commercial manager, said: “The MP:120 takes inverter technology to another level. Combining a sleek compact design, flexibility of positioning and a powerful output, it is an ideal match for the top-range gadgets being charged.”

The product has a suggested retail price of £34.99.

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Help customers avoid dazzle-related collisions

Winter weather can impair visibility

Winter weather can impair visibility

Retailers interested in shifting more cleaning products and screen wash will be interested in the latest consumer advice issued by the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

The driver organisation has warned that the combination of low winter sun and dirty windscreens is putting motorists at risk of accidents.

“Dirty windscreens make it even more difficult for drivers to see in the low sun we get in the winter months,” said Peter Rodger, the IAM’s chief examiner.

“Your heater is often on demist, blowing traffic fumes, suspended oil and smoke onto the inside of the screen, which quickly builds to a film of grime which is a major cause of glare.

“The wet roads mean more dirt on the other side of the screen, too and a low sun highlights scratches and grime making it even more of a problem.

“The best solution is to clean your screen inside and out at least once a week.”

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