Styling push heads major Mercedes E-Class facelift
18 December 2012
Mercedes-Benz has given its E-Class large saloon a mid-life facelift that goes way beyond the usual styling and equipment tinkering.
On sale in March after its debut in January at the Detroit Motor Show, the car is said to be the most comprehensively changed in Mercedes history. It gets radical restyling, an updated engine range, improvements to its safety and a range of technology designed for the next-generation S-Class.
The revised look is so comprehensive that some observers could almost be convinced this is a new car. Mercedes says the aim was more refinement and more sportuiness.
Most notable is the dropping of the quad headlamp grille, long regarded as an E-Class signature. Instead modern single-glass units are fitted complete with daytime running lights. The front and rear bumpers and the bonnet are changed, smoother wheelarches fitted, a new crease incorporated into the rear doors and two versions of the front grille offered, either sporty or traditional.
One petrol and two diesels will be offered in the mainstream range but in various power options, including new four-cylinder petrol units promising eco improvements under the brand’s BlueDirect banner. The 2.0-litre petrol unit can be had in 181 or 208bhp versions, the 2.1 diesel with 134, 168 or 201bhp, while the current range-topper will be the 248bhp 3-litre V6 diesel. Later an AMG version will join the range. Its engine hasn’t yet been revealed but is expected to outperform the current 518bhp 5.5-litre V8 petrol.
A radar-based collision prevention system joins the standard safety specification, along with braking assist and steering assist systems topping the options list.
AA launches business breakdown app for fleets
18 December 2012
The AA has launched a business breakdown app that allows fleet drivers to call the organisation directly from wherever they breakdown, with automatic transfer of their breakdown location.
The app is free and is available both to AA customers and non-customers. For fleets that don't have AA business breakdown cover for vehicles, there are other enhancements based on the requirements of fleet managers. These include reminders of vital dates, such as insurance renewal, annual service and MOT, for all vehicles in the fleet as well as access to other AA fleet products and services such as car batteries, windscreens, tyres, car data checks and vehicle inspections.
For AA business breakdown customers, a spokesman said the app provides: "Reassurance that your drivers can be accurately pinpointed and assistance dispatched quickly in the event of a breakdown; and confidence that your vehicles will be back on the move as quickly as possible if your drivers get stuck in a jam - via live traffic and roadworks information, displayed on detailed street-level mapping."
Failure to follow safety advice puts lives at risk
10 December 2012
Hundreds of company car and van drivers are killed every year, yet bad practice is putting many more at risk, research suggests.
BMW reveals 4 Series Coupé concept
10 December 2012
BMW will introduce a new four-seat coupé in 2013 to compete with the Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé.
BVRLA calls for rethink on VAT reclaim rate
10 December 2012
The BVRLA is calling on the Government to increase the amount its members can reclaim on the VAT they incur. Since 1995, businesses have been able to reclaim 50% of the VAT incurred on the finance element of a company car leasing fee.
John Lewis, chief executive of the BVRLA, explained: “Using data available at the time, the reclaim was introduced on the basis that at least half of a company car’s mileage was business use and should therefore be VAT deductible. It is allowed as a ‘block derogation’, which means that it is generally available. This has major benefits because it removes the need for hirers or lessee’s to keep records of the mileages of individual cars.”
The European Commission keeps a watching brief and requires the UK Government to justify and renew the derogation every three years.
Lewis continued: “The next deadline comes in 2014, and realising that its own National Travel Survey data set is very thin, the Government came to the BVRLA for some more detailed figures to support a renewal of the derogation. This is where things got interesting.”
After consulting with a range of business mileage capture providers, the BVRLA was able to gather figures on over 200,000 vehicles representing a cross-section of industry sectors, including perk, essential users and Government.
“We had the data audited by statisticians, who verified that it constitutes a robust and reflective sample,” said Lewis. “This showed us that business mileage accounts for roughly 62% of the total, with private mileage at 38%. It is not hard to understand why, when the Government has been very successful in its strategy of taxing company car drivers out of private fuel benefit in recent years.”
The figures leave the BVRLA in an interesting lobbying position.
Lewis continued: “From being in a position where we were looking for data that would support a renewal at 50%, we are now pushing for an increase in the VAT reclaim percentage that is more in line with the true market. We estimate that a 10 percentage points increase in the VAT reclaim is worth around £100m annually for our members customers. Knowing what we do now, it is difficult to see the leasing industry accepting anything less than the introduction of a new 60% block derogation for the UK. If this is not offered, we could end up in a situation where the industry asks for the VAT reclaim to be settled case by case, with fleets having to calculate on a portfolio basis.”
This already happens in some other European countries and is a major administrative burden for some leasing companies and their customers. However, more fleets are using mileage capture systems now.
Lewis concluded: “The bottom line is that the sums at stake are just too large to ignore.”