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Automotive News, January 2018

The union Unite has called on the owner of the Vauxhall car company to invest in new models after workers at its Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire learned the carmaker was seeking 250 additional redundancies on top of the 400 announced last October.

 

The manufacturer, now owned by French company PSA, said the move was prompted by the need to “accelerate the recovery of plant productivity”. Vauxhall said it intends to move staff from two production shifts to one. The company told Unite last week that more voluntary redundancies were now needed.

 

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This is an additional blow to a world class workforce that is one of the most efficient in the industry. PSA must provide investment guarantees on new models for Ellesmere Port as a matter of urgency.”

 

“The Government must play its part too and provide guarantees on frictionless trade after Brexit. Its current red lines on the customs union and single market will do little to instil business confidence and unlock the investment needed.”

 

Vauxhall currently employs about 4,500 people in the UK. About 1,800 are based at Ellesmere Port.

 

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The worst is yet to come for diesel cars which will see their sales continue to plunge, a study has warned. Aston University predicts they will account for just 15% of the UK market by 2025, down from a 50% peak.

 

Automotive expert Professor David Bailey said diesel’s “slow death” was being driven by “environmental pressures and consumer confusion”. He is urging the government to set up a scrappage scheme to encourage drivers to switch to electric cars. “The time is right for the government to take the initiative and offer up scrappage benefits to those who are prepared to ditch their diesels and switch to electric cars,” he said.

 

The latest figures from industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed sales of new diesel cars fell 17.1% in 2017 as higher taxes and pollution fears hit demand.

 

Diesel vehicles produce the overwhelming majority of nitrogen oxide gases coming from roadside sources, leading to them being targeted by clean air campaigners. However, the cars are also generally more fuel-efficient than petrol cars and therefore produce less carbon dioxide.

 

Diesel car sales fell by almost a third in December after November’s Budget which introduced a levy on new diesel cars that failed to meet the latest emissions standards, Experts said the one-off tax increase – which comes into effect in April – would be applied to most new diesels.

 

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The UK’s biggest carmaker, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), has said sales hit a record high last year. The company said Jaguar sold 178,601 cars, up 20% on the year before, while Land Rover sales rose 2% to 442,508.

 

JLR said sales had more than tripled since 2009. It said this was the seventh successive year of growth, which was driven by the introduction of new models and increased uptake of its clean diesel and petrol engines.

 

The company said that growing sales in China and the US helped to offset what it described as “difficult market conditions” in the European and UK markets. China was the company’s most important region in 2017 with annual sales of 146,399, up 23% year-on-year.

 

It described its performance in the UK as “solid”, with 117,748 Jaguars and Land Rovers sold. JLR sales operations director Andy Goss said: “We have once again delivered year-on-year sales increases. But we are facing tough times in key markets such as the UK where consumer confidence and diesel taxes will hit us.”

 

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Sports car manufacturer Aston Martin has announced its strongest full year sales for nine years – bucking the national trend, which show an annual fall in new car sales for the first time in six years.

 

Warwickshire-based Aston Martin said 5,117 vehicles last year amid sell-out demand for its DB11 model and special vehicles including the Vanquish Zagato and Aston Martin Vantage GT8.

 

Retail sales, which saw a 58% year-on-year increase, outpaced wholesale supply (up 38%) and the group now expects to exceed its previous full-year guidance of adjusted EBITDA of at least £180m on revenues of more than £840m.

 

Dr Andy Palmer, Aston Martin President and CEO, said: “We continue to perform ahead of expectations, both in terms of financial performance and in meeting our targets for the DB11 and special vehicles.”

 

“This strong sales performance shows that our Second Century transformation plan is building momentum. Phase Two of the programme will be largely completed in 2018 with the introduction of the Vanquish replacement and production of the new Vantage, contributing to continued sustainable profitability at Aston Martin.”

 

The figures show that for 2017 as a whole, the Gaydon-based manufacturer achieved its highest full-year sales volumes in nine years, driven by rising demand in North America, the UK and China.

 

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New car sales fell for the first time in six years last year with demand for diesel cars plunging by almost a fifth. In total, there were around 2.5 million cars registered, according to industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

 

This figure was down 5.6% from 2016, with diesel sales falling 17% as higher taxes and pollution fears hit demand. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said he expected car sales to continue to drop this year, predicting a 5 to 7% fall.

 

Mr Hawes blamed the sales fall on declining business and consumer confidence, but pointed out last year’s performance followed two years of record sales. “We need to put it into context. This was still the third best year in a decade and the sixth best ever,” he added.  Mr Hawes said that confusion about the future of diesel had fuelled a backlash against diesel cars.

 

Diesel car sales fell by almost a third in December after November’s Budget which introduced a levy on new diesel cars that failed to meet the latest emissions standards.  Mr Hawes said for many driver’s diesel was still “the best bet because they can save a lot of money and indeed have a lower C02 emission”.

 

As a result of the switch away from diesel cars, which have lower carbon dioxide emissions, he said that the SMMT’s annual report on C02 emissions from new cars was likely to show an increase for the first time in 20 years.  “The backlash against diesel has made it far harder for us – and the government to meet our climate change targets,” he said.

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UK businesses could make annual fuel savings of around £14bn if all of Britain’s vans and HGVs switched to electric alternatives, according to a new report from Hitachi Capital.

 

Electricity would be about 15p/mile cheaper than petrol or diesel for vans, the financial services firm claims, and around 38p/mile cheaper than diesel for HGVs.

 

The figures are based on Government statistics for vehicle miles, petrol and diesel consumption, and fuel and non-domestic electricity prices. “Fleets cannot afford to ignore the amazing potential of alternative fuels,” said Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions managing director Jon Lawes.

 

The report reveals that there is a strong will from fleet professionals to adopt green fuels. A survey of 149 respondents showed that 62% of fleets now contain alternative fuel vehicles.

 

Meanwhile, 82% of those surveyed said it was important for fleets to make the transition to cleaner vehicles such as electric and hybrid cars, with 42% planning to add more alternative fuel vehicles within the next two years.

 

This comes amid a backdrop of improved technology and political incentives for green fleets. A host of car manufacturers have made pledges to accelerate the move towards low-carbon models, while the UK Government has vowed to ban all new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040.

 

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Hinckley-based motorbike manufacturer Triumph Motorcycles has posted a big boost in profits and turnover for its full-year ending 30 June as they grew global revenues by £90.9m to £498.5m with profit, before exceptional costs increasing by £8.1m to £24.7m.

 

Triumph said in a statement: “In the face of continuing challenging economic and currency conditions, including Brexit, Triumph Group has performed strongly and has maintained its commitment and investment in research and development, with a view to furthering the continuous improvements of its products.”

 

“Triumph is excited about the future and is committed to delivering its long-term vision through investment in the company’s people, facilities and product that fuses character, heritage and performance to ensure the success of the brand.”