A weekly guide to all that’s rotten about car ownership, plus some good bits
The collapse in new car buying as a result of Brexit and austerity continues. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) will not renew the contracts of around 1000 agency workers at its Solihull plant because of industry challenges caused by falling diesel car sales.
“Continuing headwinds” force it to make “adjustments to production schedules and the number of agency staff”. Ah, there’s nothing like worker participation, and in the car industry there is nothing like worker participation. It’s decisions by diktat. Still, petrolheads will insist on calling Indian-owned Jaguar a British company.
Jaguar excuse the hiccup by reminding us they are recruiting large numbers of “highly skilled engineers, graduates and apprentices, because we are over-proportionally investing in new products and technologies” not that readers will ever see actual figures or evidence. Maybe continuing headwinds make it difficult to calculate them.
“We also remain committed to our UK plants, in which we have invested more than £4 billion since 2010 to future proof manufacturing technologies to deliver new models.” When a car company says it’s committed to a place you know it has discussed moving elsewhere.
And if petrolheads are forever thinking Jaguar a British company, car magazines follow suit. The right-wing Autocar magazine states: “JLR, Britain’s biggest car manufacturer, employs 40,000 people in the UK, of whom a quarter work at Solihull.” There, you see, all is well. It employs lots of people. What’s a 1,000 fewer, here or there?
Again the diesel emissions scandal is cited as one reason redundancies are in the table, as if the scandal just happened leaving car manufacturers no time to adjust. In Jaguar’s case it may be accurate. Jaguar’s XE and XF are understood to have been affected most heavily by this, although almost every model has suffered because diesels account for around 90% of JLR’s sales.
So, to recap, last year Jaguar-Land Rover sold a record-breaking 621,109 cars, this year Jaguar demand is down 26% in the year-to-date and Land Rover – the group’s bigger brand – lost a fifth of demand in the UK. The firm is doing well globally but that only highlights how fragile is a car company’s existence in Blighty.
Meanwhile, JLR’s response to changing market demand is already underway, with its first purpose-built electric vehicle, the Jaguar I-Pace, due on roads this summer. The firm has pledged to produce an electrified variant of every model in its range by 2020 as it “works towards a cleaner future”.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
All the world’s a Smart
A week in Rome discovers Italians love Smart cars, even more than their own cheeky Fiat 500 which has the advantage of two extra seats. I counted 73, (missing out more) from the airport to my hotel. Renault’s one-plus-one Twizy (made in Spain) is well liked, an electric motorbike on four wheels the shape of an insect scuttling down cobbled lanes. Biggest saloons tend to be taxi cabs. Those wonderful little characterful Piaggio Ape three-wheeled commercial vehicles are still around doing donkey work, rasping heavy loads between market stalls and traders. Lambrettas and Vespas abound, the signature transport of Rome and every Italian film you’ve ever seen. There are bicycles to rent but not the favoured method of transport. Yes, too many cars blight a beautiful city but at least a Smart or a Twizy says you have a conscience.
Pipes not packs
France, goes the saying, is the nursery of car design, so no surprise a fast-acting carbon ‘ultra-capacitor’ that could take 30% off the weight of a lithium ion EV battery pack is under development in France. It holds the pack in narrow tubes. The ultra-capacitor, which is built using carbon and graphene nano-technology, is claimed to store and discharge electrical energy much more quickly than a lithium ion cell.
“Our advantage is speed of charge and discharge,” claims James Bond villain sounding Ulrik Grape, of NAWA Technology, the company responsible for the device. “Our carbon battery can pick up energy from regenerative braking and supply it back to the motor very quickly.” According to NAWA, the ultra-capacitor could be integrated into a lithium ion battery to provide instant power for improved performance, reducing the number of charge and discharge cycles the main battery performs, thus extending its life.
About once a week a company announces a miracle new battery pack. Time will tell if this one reaches production.
Edinburgh City Council is extolling cycle owners to get their cycle marked and registered, and as readers of this site will know, I also add get comprehensive insurance against injuring pedestrians and scraping cars. I’ll never understand why anybody wants to cycle in a city as infamously windy and hilly as Edinburgh, but sharing the cost of accidents ought to be universal.
Anyhow, the little too right-wing Spokes Cycling Campaign – yes, right-wing, wherever appears its champion Martin McDonnell media savvy Scott Arthur is not far behind – has generally supported the extension of the tram system to Leith, despite regeneration of that great area mothballed since austerity took hold of common sense.
Of course, being cyclists they want fewer transport lanes and wider cycling lanes. I can’t see the residents of Leith taking to cycles to visit Edinburgh, but one-issue pressure groups never need to think of the consequences of their demands.
BMW is recalling over 300,000 cars in the UK over the possibility of engine failure issuing from an electrical fault. The company recalled cars in the USA, Australia and South Africa, but safety recalls in the UK are less stringent. However, a court case involving the death of a driver trying to avoid a stationary BMW alerted BMW executives to do the right thing … but as ever car manufactures are too slow until the inevitable happens. BMW ignored a warning by the UK’s DVSA in 2016 that fatalities could come to pass.