A weekly guide to all that sucks in the automotive industry and some good bits
That heading is absolutely true, but you’d never know it if you listened to the effluent mouthed by the likes of Boris Johnson, or a Tory or a Holyrood wretcher.
Kicking the bad boys
The European commission has charged BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen with colluding to limit the introduction of clean emissions technology, in the preliminary findings of an antitrust investigation. [European Press release] The European Union, that disgusting bunch of bureacrats, according to English imperialists, are determine to clean up our air. How dare they! I really like choking on noxious gasses as I do my shopping a Lidls. I regard poor air that kills millions of us early as a freedom we Brits enjoy.
The car manufacturers have 10 weeks to respond and could face fines of billions of euros – up to 10% of their global annual turnover – if their explanations are rejected. Ouch! Now, there’s a thing worth pointing up. George Osborne, our one-time Etonian chancellor, he of the infamous tyranny, “walk away from the UK and you walk away from the pound” gave our corrupt and venal banks twelve years to clean up their act. Twelve years! – enough time to hide their ill-gotten gains, keep their bonuses, and retire with an OBE for services to offshore tax havens.
Anyhow, for readers with short memories, the European Commission has already jumped all over a similar cartel case in 2014 against MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF group. That one ended with €2.93 billion (£2.53bn) of penalties being levied.
And there’s more!
If you think emmissions are the only car maker transgressions, think again!
The Commission has carried out a series of major investigations into cartels in the automotive parts sector. So far, the Commission has fined suppliers of automotive bearings, wire harnesses in cars, flexible foam used (inter alia) in car seats, (it caught fire if using heating elements for cold Scottish mornings), parking heaters in cars and trucks, alternators and starters, air conditioning and engine cooling systems, lighting systems, occupant safety systems to certain Japanese and European car manufacturers, braking systems and spark plugs.
So, dear Brexiteers, you can rest easy in you beds. Each time you buy a British made car it’ll be crammed to the gunnels with life threatening faults and bits that breakdown just the right side of your warranty to benefit the manufacturer, all untouched by those interfereing Brussels beaurocrats.
Sticking it to them
Here is what the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said:
“Companies can cooperate in many ways to improve the quality of their products. However, EU competition rules do not allow them to collude on exactly the opposite: not to improve their products, not to compete on quality. Daimler, VW and BMW broke EU competition rules. As a result, European consumers may have been denied the opportunity to buy cars with the best available technology.”
The EU announcement follows raids on the auto manufacturers in July 2017 after allegations in Der Spiegel newspaper that they had met in secret working groups in the 1990s to coordinate a response to diesel emissions limits. (Daimler unexpectedly revealed it had claimed whistleblower status to avoid any fines. I doubt they’ll get off with that one.)
European Union caring about Brits
Between 2006 and 2014, the commission suspects that the “circle of five” carmakers – including VW’s Audi and Porsche divisions – colluded to limit, delay or avoid the introduction of selective catalytic reduction systems (SCRs) and “Otto” particle filters. The SCR systems are used to reduce toxic diesel emissions of nitrogen dioxide, which were responsible for the premature deaths of more than 14,000 Britons in 2012, according to the EU’s environment agency.
Soon as we are out of the EU all that caring sharing nonsense is tossed out the window, or the rear hatch, if you drive a five door car.
Unions have a go
William Todts, the executive director of the European Federation of Transport and Environment, had a go at the Mighty Five cartel:
“It would be indefensible if the German car industry colluded to fit useless emissions controls, as the allegations indicate. That would mean Europeans were breathing poisonous air that should have been avoided. The EU must fine colluding companies but it mustn’t stop there. We need to clean up the 43 million dirty diesels that are on our streets today.”
So there you have it. There’s no getting away from the fact the car makers are a bunch of damn crooks. The commission acknowledges the fact that cooperation between manufacturers on technical issues is widespread in the global automotive industry. No wonder their television advertising makes no mention of what they put into the cars we buy, or rather, what they leave out.
And Top Gear’s trio of laddites share in the blame when Clarkson decided nobody wants to know what goes into making a car, only how fast it can accelerate. Aye, that’ll be right.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Lower insurance premiums
Cheaper than usual insurance? No! But yes. Reforms to whiplash insurance payouts to stamp out bogus claims have helped to push down car insurance premiums by an average of a £100 in the past three months, according to the price comparison site Comparethemarket.com. I noticed this when renewing my insurance last month. I thought they had made a mistake because there was no increase on the renewal document. Whiplash claims – that scam where drivers are not hurt but an ambulance chaser of a solicitor will get you £5,000 compensation for being a liar – cost the motor insurance industry £2 billion a year, largely responsible for the outrageous insurance premiums. Anyhow, that scam is no longer an easy payday. The legislation, which has received royal assent, will not come into force until April 2020 but as I discovered insurers have already started to reduce premiums in anticipation of lower payouts.
600 mile batteries
Every month some hole-in-the-wall outfit makes claims for their new electric concept vehicle, or gadget, and then they disappear from sight. But advances in battery storage are making headway. A new first-of-its-kind rechargeable battery will give electric cars a range of more than 600 miles on a single charge. Innolith AG – a company that specialises in inorganic battery technology – is developing what it claims will be the world’s first 1,000Wh/kg (watt-hour per kilogram) rechargeable battery, allowing electric cars to travel for up to 1,000km (621 miles) before having to recharge. Not only does the high density battery have the potential to all but eliminate range anxiety, but it will also reduce the costs associated with battery production because of the fact it doesn’t require the use of what Innolith calls “exotic and expensive materials”. Another advantage is that, “while traditional electric car batteries use a flammable organic electrolyte, the Innolith Energy Battery will utilise a non-flammable inorganic electrolyte”, therefore reducing the risk of the vehicle catching fire. The battery is currently being developed at Innolith’s laboratory in Germany, you know, that country our English friends love to hate. Innolith will initially launch the battery to market via a pilot production scheme in Germany, after which licensing arrangements will be made with vehicle manufacturers. Hip hip hooray! I’ll keep watch on developments for readers.
Space age Brechin
I had a glorious drive from Edinburgh to the ancient city of Brechin yesterday to meet and talk with (with not ‘at’) the Yes cavalry of that fine district. A fine bunch of radicals to meet anywhere. There I shook hands with some iconic Internet names fighting for the cause of self-governance, Malky and Paula, his emblematic image a well-worn pork pie hat, Malky, a tough wee terrier, being but two, and good company they were. (I think I depressed them saying the next referendum might not be won – but wiser to dampen expectation to raise determination.) Two things impressed me on the sunny journey, the pleasure I experienced driving over the three ‘sails’ of the Queens Crossing bridge – a beautiful, elegant structure Scotland paid for with our own money. And when waiting in the green near the venue centre of Brechin I saw a chap driving around for an hour in his shiny new orange motorbike vehicle, one of those contraptions that has one wheel at the front, two seats, one behind the other, and leans over at alarming angles when cornering. He had his space age toy and he was determined to enjoy it.
Happy motoring, readers.