Monday, April 8, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Margaret Thatcher and the British car industry

Posted: 08 Apr 2013 06:37 AM PDT

Margaret Thatcher and the British car industry From inadvertently saving British Leyland to beginning its demise, Margaret Thatcher was a hugely important PM for car production in Britain

So farewell then Margaret Thatcher. The greatest Prime Minister in my lifetime. In 1979 I worked in a bank and my working class boss said if we didn't vote for Maggie that night we were doomed. He was right. Some, though, think she hastened the demise of the British car industry. Well she certainly had an interesting relationship with British cars.

In opposition she not unreasonably asked, "Well, Michael Edwards, and why should we pour further funds into British Leyland?" His response was to restructure the company with factory closures and mass redundancies.

The workforce voted for it and this led directly to BL being able to sack shop steward Derek Robinson, who had produced his own response to that report which was interpreted as gross misconduct, which was a sackable offence. Issuing Robbo's P45 ultimately meant that robots could go ahead to build the small car's replacement. So against her instincts Thatcher saved BL.

Mrs Thatcher's preferred transport as prime minister was the Rover P5. It was a suitably imposing and reassuring car especially in black, which perfectly suited the style of not one, but four Prime Ministers. From Harold Wilson, to Ted Heath, then James Callaghan and finally Margaret Thatcher.

Both Harold and Maggie ultimately shared the same 1972 model, which had been modified for Wilson with a special ashtray in the rear seat armrest to accommodate his pipe and matches.

Indeed, the last batch of Rover P5s to be built was reserved exclusively for official use. During Margaret Thatcher's time in office she made sure that at least a dozen of them remained on the fleet, apparently because she hated the thought of government ministers being seen in its successors, the Rover P6 and SD1.

Although as a British Leyland product it was a vehicle that was owned by the British people (and the company was technically run by the government), the car was a metaphor for shoddy workmanship and catastrophic industrial relations.

When Margaret Thatcher was planning to change marques during the 1980s she needed a manufacturer that represented a more entrepreneurial age. One that was no longer state run but recently privatised and owned by shareholders.

Arthur Daley, one of the central characters in TV's hugely popular Minder, was clearly a Thatcherite, so it only seemed appropriate that she be seen in the same Jaguar XJ saloon that he was driving. What not many people know is that the car both Daley and Thatcher had was the posher XJ version, with Daimler badging and more chrome.

By the late 1980s when BL chairman Graham Day submitted his corporate plan, which had a £1 billion price tag attached in order to get it through the next five years, Mrs Thatcher and her government had had enough.

British Aerospace was convinced to take the whole lot for what has subsequently been regarded as a giveaway price: £150 million. Back in British hands but the beginning of the end for the industry, which would no longer rely on a subsidy.

Margaret Thatcher didn't start British Leyland, Harold Wilson did, but at least she helped in finishing it. Good.

Citroën DS Wild Rubis set for Shanghai motor show debut

Posted: 08 Apr 2013 06:24 AM PDT

Citroen DS Wild Rubis set for Shanghai motor show debut Teaser video and pictures hint at new luxury DS crossover concept called the Wild Rubis

Citroën has released a teaser image and video of a new concept called the DS Wild Rubis. 

Set to be revealed in full at the upcoming Shanghai motor show, the new Wild Rubis concept belongs to Citroën's upmarket 'DS' range.

Although no complete image of the Wild Rubis has been revealed, it appears that it will take the form of a compact SUV or crossover.

DS models, which are positioned above Citroën's normal range, are reputed to offer "the best of the Citroën brand".

Typically they feature stylised interiors, more fluid exterior styling and high-end equipment and interior finishes.

It's rumoured that the new DS Wild Rubis will be available with four-wheel drive and a diesel-electric hybrid system, the same as that found in the current DS5 Hybrid4.

Conventional diesel and petrol models will consequently be, most likely, front-wheel drive only.

More Citroën DS Wild Rubis details will be revealed at the Shanghai motor show. 

Porsche 911 Turbo: latest spy shots

Posted: 08 Apr 2013 03:57 AM PDT

Porsche 911 Turbo - first spy shots New 911 Turbo gets 530bhp and four-wheel steering; on sale next year for around £120k

Porsche is busy putting the finishing touches to the new 911 Turbo, seen here nearly undisguised.

The new model will, like the 911 GT3, adopt four-wheel steering for added agility, Porsche R&D chief Wolfgang Hatz has confirmed to Autocar.

The latest incarnation of the 2+2 supercar is due to get its first public airing at the Frankfurt motor show in September. The new 911 Turbo will enter UK showrooms at a price that's expected to nudge £120,000 in fully loaded form — the same territory that McLaren is targeting with the P13.

As with all recent new 911 models, the new car benefits from a wide range of weight-saving measures, including extensive use of aluminium.

Despite an increase in dimensions, the kerb weight has been reduced below the 1585kg of the last of the previous-generation models, in a move that promises to provide the new range-topping 911 with even more explosive performance.

Along with the larger body, the 911 Turbo adopts a heavily reworked chassis that uses a longer wheelbase and wider tracks. This is claimed to provide it with improved weight distribution. It also provides scope for an increase in tyre size, with 325/30-profile rubber set to appear at the rear. 

The latest 911 Turbo prototypes provide a clear indication of the styling direction that the new car will take. Features include a unique front bumper with larger air ducts to help cool the front-mounted radiators, more pronounced sills under the doors, air ducts ahead of the rear wheel arches, a complex rear wing that provides active aerodynamics dependent on speed, and a reworked rear bumper with cooling ducts to extract air from the engine bay.

As with the existing 997 model, the new 991-series 911 Turbo is powered by a turbocharged version of Porsche's 3.8-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder petrol engine. Insiders have confirmed that it retains a twin-turbocharger arrangement, with low-inertia, variable-vane units to raise induction pressure.

Autocar understands that the new 911 Turbo will match the output of the most recent 911 Turbo S, with 530bhp and up to 530lb ft of torque. Those reserves will be channelled through a standard six-speed manual or optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and a four-wheel drive system with torque vectoring. 

Nothing is official just yet, but the new Turbo is expected to match the old Turbo S for straight-line pace. Porsche insiders point to a 0-62mph time of about 3.3sec and a top speed nudging 200mph.

Although larger than the car it replaces, the new 911 Turbo offers even sharper handling, Porsche engineers claim. Developments include electro-mechanical steering for the first time. As mentioned earlier, it forms part of a new four-wheel steer system shared with the 911 GT3.

The new system allows the steering angle of the rear wheels to be varied by up to 1.5 degrees, depending on the speed. At up to 37mph, the rear wheels are steered in the opposite direction to the front wheels, providing faster corner entry speeds. Above 50mph, the system steers the rear wheels parallel to the front wheels to improve stability.

More Jaguar XKR-S GTs could be built

Posted: 08 Apr 2013 02:17 AM PDT

New production limit for Jaguar XKR-S GT Originally Jaguar said there would be just 30 examples of the hardcore coupé; now there might be 50

The £130,000 limited-edition Jaguar XKR-S GT production run will be extended if there is enough demand for extra cars.

Initially, Jaguar had insisted that only 30 examples of the hardcore, race-derived XK would be built, with all of them being sold in the US and Canada.

However, just 24 hours after the car's unveiling at the New York motor show, Jaguar boss Adrian Hallmark confirmed that capacity was available to build an additional 20 cars if customers wanted.

"It is possible the production run will reach 50," said Hallmark. "The initial cap was set to define the business case but, thankfully, there is room for more."

Jaguar claims the XKR-S GT, powered by a 542bhp supercharged 5.0-litre V8, can lap the Nürburgring in under 7min 40sec, about the same time as the fastest recorded lap by the Ferrari 458 Italia.

"The real beauty of this project has been that it has extended our understanding of the elements involved in making a car go so fast, and that will feed back into all our road car programmes," said Hallmark.

"We could have got more power from the engine and achieved lap times that way, for instance, but we focused on driveability, aero enhancements, weight saving, brake performance and the like. 

"All of these things make the GT a more fun car to drive and workable for on-road use. We've always been known for making cars that are known for their driving pleasure, but this project has further deepened our understanding of how to do that."

All-electric Renault Twin-Z concept revealed

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 03:11 AM PDT

All-electric Renault Twin-Z concept revealed New electric Renault supermini concept to influence next Twingo

The new Renault Twin-Z concept will influence a production car next year, thought to be the next Twingo

An electric supermini, the Twin-Z is described as a sister car to a three-door, rear-drive hatch concept that will appear next month. The Twin-Z is also rear-drive, but uses an electric motor instead of a combustion engine and has five doors.

It isn't hugely powerful or quick - 67bhp and 167lb ft, for a top speed of 81kph - but at 3623mm long it is small and with a weight of 980kg, which is fairly light. 

It also has a sophisticated suspension set up for a car of its size, with double wishbones at the rear and adjustable Ohlins dampers, while the wheel-at-each-corner stance gives the car a more planted look. Moving the wheels and associated suspension components to the car's corners also frees up interior space. 

The car's design is a collaboration between Renault and British designer Ross Lovegrove, who has worked on projects from a bicycle made from bamboo to the interior of Lufthansa's first class cabins. Lovegrove also designed the wheels, and Michelin developed a bespoke set of tyres for the car. 

The car has powered suicide doors, which allow the central pillar to be dispensed with, opening up the cabin. The entire interior is covered in lights which follow the contours of the cabin, and the seats have been made as thin and as light as possible. They're covered in a waterproof, fire-retardant material, and the seat frame is visible through the fabric to further lighten the cabin. The infotainment system is controlled from a tablet mounted in the middle of the dash. 

Much of the Twin-Z's detailing is purely conceptual, but expect the next Twingo to be available as a five door as well as a three door. Renault also wants the car to have a high degree of customisation, to compete with the likes of the Fiat 500 and Mini.

Dan Stevens

Quick news: Fabia Monte Carlo Tech, Kia sales, Nissan Juke n-tec, Corvette makes $1m

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 01:19 AM PDT

Quick news: Fabia Monte Carlo Tech, Limited-edition Skoda supermini, Kia best-ever sales month, tech-laden Juke, Corvette auctioned for charity

A limited-edition Fabia has been introduced by Skoda. Only 1000 Monte Carlo Tech models will be made, adding equipment to the popular Monte Carlo specification. It's available with two engines, a 1.2-litre TSI petrol and a 1.6-litre TDI diesel. Prices for the Fabia Monte Carlo Tech start at £11,990.

March was Kia's most successful month for sales in its history. The Korean firm sold 12,608 cars last month, a rise of 13 per cent from 2012 and enough for a 3.17 per cent share of the UK new car market. Kia's best-seller is the Sportage SUV, with 5,237 sold so far in 2013.

Nissan has introduced an n-tec specification to its Juke crossover. Based on the Acenta Premium, the n-tec adds the latest Nissan Connect infotainment system, with Google's Send-To-Car route-planning technology. Nissan expects the n-tec to be the best-selling Juke, and it's available with all powertrain combinations. Prices start at £16,295.

Holden has been forced to reduce its staff numbers at two factories as production is scaled back. It has struggled with a strengthening Australian dollar and a competitive market, with the Cruze not selling as expected. It's predicted that 400 workers will lose their jobs in Elizabeth and 100 in Victoria.

The first Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible has been sold at auction for $1m (£652,000). It was bought by Rick Hendrick, owner of Nascar team Hendrick Motorsport, who also paid $1.1m (£717,000) for the first Stingray coupé earlier this year. The money raised has gone to the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.

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