A weekly look at all that sucks in the automotive world, plus some good bits
Scotland is, as envisaged, getting it in the goolies as a result of Brexit’s effect on British car makers. We might not have a car industry in Scotland but we have companies that supply the one in England. I’ll come to that in a minute.
The sales of cars falls to an all-time low with lay-offs in thousands between car plant and suppliers and Westminster oblivious. No government minister seems to notice car makers have stopped investing in new models pending the disaster of Brexit. And we are told there should be greater fines for using a phone while driving (a mobile while mobile), and hands-free telephones in cars are just as dangerous.
The Tories like to say we live in a nanny state, but that’s to cover up what they are aiming to create, and have created to a great extent, the authoritarian state, the kind they like. Who doesn’t think use of hand phones on the move dangerous? Illegal mobile phone use by drivers is rising. 31% of motorists admitted to using a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with 8% in 2014. 14% of motorists admit taking photographs or videos with their phone while driving. Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that a driver impaired or distracted by their phone was a contributory factor in 492 accidents.
With a hands-free phone you do as you would do talking to a front-seat passenger. The best are voice activated; you state the name of the person you want to call and the magic box dials the number. The most you need to do is take one hand off the steering wheel to press the green button to accept a call. What’s different about that from reaching over to get something from the glove box, or altering the hair-conditioning controls?
Granted, if you’re having a screaming dispute with a relative at the other end of the line your concentration isn’t on the road in front, or to the side or rear, for that matter. There again, what difference is there between that situation and having a screaming child in the back seat where you have to stretch back to pat the brat while driving?
What about the accident that demands an emergency call? How does that work if we ban all phones from vehicles? 90% of telephone boxes were removed years ago.
Yet here we are with a government committee demanding a blanket ban. The group of MPs – chaired by Lilian Greenwood MP – called upon the government to extend the ban on hand-held devices to hands-free ones, stating that “evidence shows that using a hands-free device creates the same risks of crashing”. They provide no evidence for this assertion.
Considering the new cars appearing using computer screens for all electrical operations, interactive screens that require multiple finger prods to reach the required function, the MPs should think again. But then they probably live a different reality from the rest of us, chauffeured everywhere, free to use their phone while sitting in the rear seat next to the booze cabinet.
On the new car investment side of the news, evidence mounts that parts suppliers to the car trade are moving into debt which in turn will lead to closures. An example: in an extraordinary announcement from TS Tech who make car seats for Honda UK, Honda shutting down permanently its only UK plant at Swindon, they have ‘no idea what will happen’. They have not had new orders from existing companies. On the wider front, closures in the UK guarantee the global supply chain will evaporate in months to come.
Scotland isn’t exempt from the knock-on disaster of Brexit. TMD provides assembled car parts, parts made in Ayrshire. Steve Firbank, finance director for TMD, said it was “with deep regret” they were to close the site and start a period of consultation. “I would stress this was an incredibly hard decision to make. We do not take redundancies lightly having invested over £4 million in the site since we took ownership.”
TMD blamed the “significant cost pressure” on the European manufacturing sector from Brexit, adding they need to “safeguard the future” of their business by making it as competitive as possible. Cutting costs invariably is a euphemism for cutting staff numbers. TMD will move all work to their biggest site in Hartlepool which sounds fine except it affects their supply chain in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. It will see 90 people made redundant from the brake pad manufacturer unit on Cessnock Road.
Kilmarnock and Loudoun SNP MSP, Willie Coffey, has asked to meet with representatives from the company, calling it “awful news for all staff affected”. Coffey explained to me from his Edinburgh office that he will try to raise the matter in the Scottish Parliament to “see if there is anything we can do”. That will see him engage with the Scottish government’s PACE team, Scottish Enterprise, East Ayrshire Council and Ayrshire College.
In another Scottish example: One of Teesside’s biggest employers has called for more clarity on Brexit after Nissan’s shock X-Trail announcement, claiming the work would have been “one of the building blocks of its future growth strategy”. Car parts factory Nifco UK says it’s “disappointed” the Japanese giant has switched production from Sunderland to Japan – and “confusion around Brexit is to blame”.
Next step is China invading Hong Kong to quell dissidents, and British car maker pulling out of China, or signing memos of subservience to the Chinese state.
As we hear relentlessly, when England gets a cold, Scotland gets pneumonia. How often do we have to repeat that it’s time to govern our own future.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Bright blue yonder
Believe it or not there is a right-wing think tank called Bright Blue. How refreshing for neo-liberal plotters to give their unelected fifth columns a title that isn’t Orwellian, such as ‘Democracy Now’, all about reducing democracy, or ‘Climate Knowledge’, wholly concerned with limiting or rejecting what we are doing to our planet in the name of the profit line and shareholder rights. This bunch of Eton fags suggest members of the public who spot drivers leaving their engines idling unnecessarily should film them, send the footage to authorities, and receive 25 per cent of the offending driver’s fine, according to a think tank. Where will that go? Bash an alien, drag them to the nearest police station and get 25% of their repatriation fees. Bright Blue describes itself as a “pressure group for liberal conservatism” but as readers can see, is actually a pressure group for curtailing liberty and spying on your neighbour.
Conferring with the flowers
Drivers have a multitude of ways of keeping their minds occupied when they are caught in traffic jams. Some listen to the radio, some play ‘Envy’ – taking exception to the driver in an expensive car in the line – others still, pick their nose. In my last jam I composed a wee poem which I duly offer for reader’s pleasure. If you’ve never heard of the Zonda supercar you won’t understand it. It costs upwards of a quarter of a million pounds. And if you’ve never heard of the ancient town of Ronda in Spain’s Malaga province, with its famous old stone bridge spanning a deep gorge, the ditty will mystify. Anyhow, here it is, thankfully brief.
Yonda in Ronda lies my Zonda. My ex, Vonda, whom I’m not fonda, took it. Now I drive a Honda. Okay, I’m not apologising. Best I could manage under the circumstances.
Those bloody French again
We know the English despise the French. They’ve good reason to, many have Gallic blood in their lineage. Well, recent data shows the DVLA received 325,000 requests for Mr Limey’s driver details and … 246,000 came from France. It appears the Brits nip over there a lot and don’t play nice. French authorities are mad because so many Brits won’t pay up for their bad ways. Countries in the European Union are able to ask the DVLA to supply them with the details of UK drivers who have broken local traffic laws when driving abroad under mutual legal assistance (MLA) rules. Will Brexit mean Harry the Cockney gets off Scot free – if you’ll excuse the expression?