Where Are All The Automatics?

Friday, 16. February 2018

Hi, Graham Hill here, thank you so much for visiting my blog, I hope you learn a lot and as a result end up driving a great car. In order to do so you can get all the information you need by buying my book, An Insider Guide To Car Finance or use me to finance your next car. Happy driving.

Back in 2012 around a quarter of all new car registrations were autos. In 2017 that grew to 1,016,516, around 50%, so clearly there is a strong move towards autos. The reason could possibly be because we spend so long in traffic jams and nothing irritates quite so much as having to put the car in and out of gear every couple of minutes.

 

Spend half an hour in a traffic jam and the clutch pedal that always seemed light as a feather is now as heavy as a ton weight. Whatever the reason, the demand is increasing but the manufacturers seemed to have missed it. Whenever we have limited stock deals they tend to be mainly manuals unless the cars are executive cars, then they tend only to be autos.

 

This week we saw a typical example when we had a limited stock deal from VW on Tiguan petrol cars. Half were manual and half auto. That in itself was unusual because most cars of that size on special offer tend to be manuals. Within 48 hours all the autos had gone but we still had plenty of manuals (unfortunately all gone now). Crazy but proves my point.

 

So come on manufactures lets have access to more autos. They used to be around £30 + VAT more per month but with stronger resale values that difference has dropped to a more realistic £10 + VAT. Personally, I have driven autos for years and certainly wouldn’t go back to a manual. By Graham Hill

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Catseyes Could Be On The Way Out

Friday, 9. February 2018

Highways England have been trialling smart LED road studs at the Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey. The trial was successful and they are now being installed at the Switch Island junction near Liverpool where the M57 and M58 meet a trio of A roads. 90,000 cars use the junction every day with a crash occurring every 2 weeks. The smart LED road studs work in conjunction with the traffic lights guiding cars into the correct lanes.

 

The project is likely to be the first of many tech upgrades that will be introduced by Highways England across the country to make roads safer. The first project in Liverpool will cost £3 million and consist of just 170 studs. Oxford-based Clearview Intelligence is undertaking the project using the smart studs. Highways England is looking to make our road network intelligent with smart studs being able to communicate with cars in the future.

 

Eventually, the smart studs should be able to provide information on road conditions, weather and traffic conditions helping to pave the way for autonomous cars. They will also be able to facilitate communication between autonomous cars and normal cars. Accidents will be detected and emergency services alerted. When in full production the developers estimate that the cost of installing the smart studs will be £10,000 per mile which is apparently a low cost.

 

The idea sounds very impressive, I can’t wait to see them in action.  By Graham Hill

 

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Is The Government Serious About Electric Cars?

Friday, 9. February 2018

Of course, they are making the right noises but are they making the right noises for the wrong reasons? I rarely supply electric cars, even with all the publicity surrounding the benefits to the environment and low running costs.

 

The original argument was that they were too expensive and the range wasn’t sufficient. Whilst we have managed to supply some electric cars at heavily subsidised rates, in some cases at lower rates than their petrol and diesel equivalents, they were still not taken up in numbers, even when the potential customers rarely took their cars on long trips. Mainly driving them around their local town. Even then, they still refused to lease them.

 

Look below the surface and you can see that if all drivers reverted to electric cars the Treasury would lose an absolute fortune. On the other hand, thanks to mayor Khan and Chris Grayling, we have suddenly found diesels demonised as destroying the environment and an opportunity for the Chancellor to hit diesels hard with initial registration tax and initial road fund licence.

 

In addition, for years, the Government encouraged manufacturers to develop diesel engines capable of achieving close to 100 miles per gallon, resulting in businesses turning virtually 100% to diesel cars. As a result of the Government’s changed green policy towards diesel engine’d cars they have now hit innocent company car drivers with added benefit-in-kind tax because their companies have provided them with diesel cars, as was recommended by the Government. I believe that there’s a stitch up going on here.

 

Am I right? Am I being unfair on the Government? Well, one of the reasons why I have come to this conclusion is a report I read regarding the installation of EV charge points installed in 2017. Top of the list was France with 11,987, next was Germany with 7,937 followed by the UK at an abysmal 2,833. 4th was Switzerland, just behind the UK at 2,716 with Norway 5th at 2,116.

 

As usual, it is my view that whilst the Government strongly supports a cleaner environment and a wholesale move to electric cars in public, it is secretly holding back the growth of electric cars in order to screw over drivers of petrol and diesel cars through increased taxation in the short term. By Graham Hill

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A Rethink Over Smart Motorway Refuge Areas

Friday, 2. February 2018

Following complaints and serious concerns expressed by drivers on Smart Motorways the Highways Agency has had a rethink and decided to place refuge areas, wherever practical, at distances of 1 mile and not 1.5 miles as is the case at the moment.

 

They will also extend a system, currently in operation, that automatically detects broken down vehicles in live lanes. Highways England will also install more refuge areas in locations  ‘with the highest levels of potential live lane stops’ and paint them orange to increase driver confidence.’ That’ll work then, nothing like a lick of orange paint to increase confidence eh!

 

Clearly something had to be done following a survey carried out by the AA that found 80% of respondents saying that they felt that smart motorways are more dangerous than traditional motorways. The automated breakdown detection system will be rolled out to all smart motorways across the country following a successful trial on the M25.

 

Smart motorways are now being accepted more but Highways England have found motorists still using lanes that have been blocked off with a red X signal. Whilst they have not been charging motorists for breaking the rules to date, in future they will incur fines as well as penalty points, due to begin this year – you have been warned. By Graham Hill

 

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MOT About To Go Through Major Changes

Friday, 2. February 2018

On the 20th May this year new rules come into play. Special attention is being paid to diesel cars and new defect categories will come into force. New categories will be Minor, Major and Dangerous. Major and Dangerous will cause the car to fail the test. Cars with Minor defects will be allowed to pass but the faults will be recorded on the MOT certificate and online MOT record in the same way as ‘advisories’ are at the moment.

 

The new tighter rules have been put in place to stop those driving older diesel cars with particulate filters from having the casing opened and the filter removed rather than replace it. In future, if a diesel car, fitted with a particulate filter (DPF) emits ‘visible smoke of any colour’, during the metered tests will be given a ‘Major Fault’ and will fail their MOT.

 

Testers will also need to check the DPF canisters more carefully and if there is evidence of them being opened and re-welded, removed completely or otherwise tampered with the tester must refuse to test the car unless the owner can prove that it was done for ‘legitimate reasons such as filter cleaning.’

 

The changes have been brought in by the EU with the categories Major, Minor and Dangerous being applied, in future, to all cars across the EU. The wording of MOT certificates will be altered to reflect the changes. Unlike the current scheme if faults are found that could show that the driver is driving a dangerous car or in breach of the Road Traffic Act he could be prosecuted. That should produce a few headlines!

 

Some believe that the new rules will create even more confusion. For example, if a steering box had a leak it would be regarded as a minor problem and the car would pass its MOT. However, if the leak from the box is enough to be dripping that would lead to the fault being regarded as a major fault and result in a failure – really!!

 

There are mixed views regarding the new categories. My view is that they are not workable as there will be no consistency between MOT centres as testers take a different view to each fault they find. What may be Minor to one could be dangerous to another. We will see. By Graham Hill

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Plug-In Hybrids – The Dangers

Friday, 26. January 2018

I reported last year that companies in particular, as well as many private drivers, were being tempted into Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) as a result of MPG’s being advertised of 130 – 150. One company in particular, under pressure from employees because PHEV’s come with low benefit-in-kind tax, switched much, if not all of their fleet to Mitsubishi Outlanders.

 

However, many of the drivers had no access to charge points so drove their cars as a normal hybrid but ended up driving the car mainly on the petrol engine. The result meant that the cars that should have achieved over 130 MPG ended up returning just 25 MPG. At the time of writing the company was haemorrhaging money, pouring it into the tanks of its cars.

 

The point is that as pressure increases on companies and consumers to take more fuel efficient cars you should understand that PHEV’s are only efficient if they are run on the electric motor which must be charged from a charge point, not the trickle charge from the petrol engine. Make sure that if you are going down this route you understand all the implications.

 

There are grants for charge points to be installed at work and at home but if you don’t have access to your own or a street charge point your car could end up costing a fortune in petrol costs and the increased emissions do more damage than if you’d taken a petrol car in the first place. By Graham Hill

 

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End Of Contract Servicing – Beware

Friday, 26. January 2018

I read an interesting story about a car crash that happened whilst a car was being driven by a car mechanic. A firm of lawyers was using the story as a case history of what can go wrong when evidence is lost or disposed of. Basically the driver, taking the car on a test drive, had an accident that not only injured him but also several other innocent motorists.

 

A forensic investigation took place following a police interview with the driver who could recall nothing of the accident. Evidence collected at the scene and an investigation of the wreck showed that the most likely cause of the loss of control was a deflated rear tyre.

 

However, at this critical point of the investigation, as it was several weeks after the crash took place, the suspect wheel had been thrown away. It was devastating for the driver as the lawyers needed the tyre to be able to prove whether the loss of control was, in fact, the tyre or  whether it was down to driver competence, his input and/or that of those who serviced the car?

 

Without the tyre they couldn’t tell whether the deflation was the cause or result of the crash. Did the sidewall collapse or did it have a puncture? Without this vital evidence the mechanic was found guilty of causing the accident – seen as unjust by the lawyers as the mechanic suffered and the garage saw its insurance sky rocket, all because a vital part of the car wasn’t kept.

 

The important message here is never destroy evidence. Which got me thinking. At the end of a contract you often find that a service is due. Some cars tell you on a ‘condition based counter’. This means that the service is due based on the way that you drive the car, time and mileage. On the other hand it could be an annual service per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

 

As most lease cars are registered a day or two before the car is delivered the service becomes due a day or two before the car is due back. Read the contract but the chances are that you will have to get the car serviced.

 

It’s a pain in the neck for you but a profit opportunity for the garage to charge for repairs/replacements that aren’t necessary. Typically they will tell you that you need fluid changes or replacement brake pads, even though warning lights haven’t come on.

 

On one occasion I still had a month to go and my brake warning light came on so I popped in to a garage for a new set of pads. Whilst they were carrying out the work the service manager came out and told me that the discs needed changing as well. I asked if they were illegal and as soon as he said no I told him to leave them. Worse still if I’d said change them and they invoiced me without doing anything. Which is my next point.

 

Some main dealers and garages take a video of the work they carry out which you can watch in real time on your phone or tablet or have it sent to you after the service/repair has been completed. If they don’t video make sure you ask for the replaced parts to be put into a box and placed in your boot.

 

If you feel that the item didn’t need to be replaced have it checked and be prepared to challenge the dealer if your expert says the work didn’t need to be done. It seems Trading Standards are getting more pro-active. By Graham Hill

 

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EU Crackdown On Emissions Will Become UK Law

Thursday, 18. January 2018

Following the VW debacle the EU has introduced fines on manufacturers who’s cars don’t meet EU emission standards.

Each member country is expected to carry out emissions tests and any cars falling below the EU emission standard will cause the manufacturer to be fined 30,000 Euros PER CAR.

The EU has introduced tougher rules to compliment new laboratory and real world emissions tests for new vehicles. It seems that only the manufacturer will be fined and not the driver, which is fair.

Each member country is expected to carry our random inspections and if cars are found to be outside certain emissions limits not only will the manufacturer be fined a Europe wide recall will be imposed so it’s important that the manufacturers don’t fiddle emissions in the first place.

The new rules come into play in 2020. This could result in some massive fines which will result in the cost of new cars increasing. And I feel very uncomfortable with these ‘real life’ tests not being as accurate as many would expect.

I like the idea that we are trying to clean up our act when it comes to the environment but such heavy fines are, I feel, a little over the top.

The UK Government is expected to adopt the new emissions tests and the associated fines, even though we should be out of the EU in 2020. Graham Hill

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Strange Tyre Advice From Michelin

Friday, 2. June 2017

Now here’s some strange advice I thought I would never be sharing. Michelin has urged drivers not to change their tyres too early. The reason, because changing tyres early is not good for the environment and costs individuals and companies money.

 

Research that was carried out by Michelin found that if tyres were changed with 3mm of tread remaining instead of the legal limit of 1.6mm would cost drivers in the EU an extra £6.9 billion per annum in extra tyre purchases and extra fuel consumption through increased friction on the road surface.

 

So there you have it, you should wait till your tyres are just about on their limit before changing them. By Graham Hill

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Variable Speed Cameras Raise Millions – Where Are They?

Friday, 26. May 2017

As we all know speed cameras are only there to help to save lives not raise revenue – yer right!! I actually don’t mind speed cameras if they are genuinely saving lives, in towns, near schools and old people’s homes or where there are likely hazards on a stretch of road such as horses or a particularly bad bend where people have had accidents. But what about the variable speed cameras on motorways?

 

The overhead speed signs that change with road conditions. Now gradually slowing cars down whilst you approach a traffic jam is fine but when you’ve passed the broken down car on the opposite side of the motorway, that all in front slowed down to have a look at, rubbernecking, and the road is clear in front but the speed limit lights are still showing 30mph is it right to cop drivers on camera anxious to get a move on?

 

Well it seems that these variable speed cameras are earning a fortune with cameras between junction 19 and 20 on the M4 in Bristol raising a massive £4,032,000 since they were installed in July/August 2014. Confused.com have revealed the top 5 money making variable speed camera stretches of motorway in the UK with the Bristol stretch of the M$ responsible for issuing 40,320 penalty notices.

 

The findings revealed that 210,000 motorists have been caught out by sudden speed changes raising at least £21 million in fines – staggering. The standard fine for speeding is £100 with 3 points on your licence but penalties can increase to £2,500 with a ban if you are excessively over the limit.

 

Want to know the other speed camera ‘black spots’? Next on the list was on the M5 at Almondsbury  – Easter Compton J16-17, since June 2014 variable speed cameras have raised £2,739.800, Luton in Beds. J10-11 on the M1 has raised £2,175,100 since September 2013. Next comes the M25 in Surrey, J9-16 that has raised £1,919,400 since 2014 and finally, again on the M25 near J27 in Epping, Sussex since January 2013 they have raised £1,888,800. So there you have it, you have been warned! By Graham Hill

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