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New VW Golf details

29 August 2012

The Volkswagen Golf MkVII is nearly here, and Volkswagen has revealed a host of details on the new Golf, ahead of its official unveil on 4 September. The biggest news is that it will be bigger, 100kg lighter and that the most efficient BlueMotion model will emit just 85g/km of CO2.
VW has refused to release any official pictures of the car before 4 September, but this artist's impressions gives a good idea of how the car will look.
The new Golf is the first VW to be built on the new MQB platform, which was debuted by the new Audi A3. The Golf will be bigger than the car it replaces, too, with a wheelbase that's 59mm longer and a body that's 56mm longer, 13mm wider and 28mm lower. The front axle - which will come with a locking differential that was previously only on sports models to aid cornering - sits 48mm further forward, giving the Golf a larger footprint and better stability.
Despite its larger size, the Golf has shed an amazing 100kg across the range, which means the entry-level version will weigh just 1,150kg – you have to go back to the 1997 Mk IV to find a Golf that weighs as little as this.  The improvements are due to the use of high-strength steel and more advanced manufacturing processes that allow thinner, stronger body sections. The body itself now weighs 23kg less, but components – such as the air-conditioning (which saves 2.7kg) and the front seats (now 7kg lighter) – have been improved, too.
We had the chance to sit inside a prototype of the new Golf, and it has a markedly different feel to the current car. The driving position is 12mm lower, and the seat itself has more adjustability in length.  While there’s less headroom - thanks to the lower roofline and ride height - there’s more leg and elbow-room, with rear passengers benefitting from most of the 14mm increase in overall cabin length.  Stretched before the driver is a new ‘driver oriented’ cockpit, which in VW speak means that the centre console is angled towards the driver, not like the current car’s flatter set-up.
There's a new infotainment system, too, which uses a 5-inch display on entry-level models, a 5.8-inch colour display on mid-level cars and a massive 8-inch WVGA screen on range-topping models. While they’ll all be capable of controlling the audio and air-conditioning settings, high-end versions will feature 3D sat-nav and be combined with new ‘Heptactic’ touch, which senses your finger approaching the screen and switches from display to operating modes.  This is part of the increasing customer demand for technology: “We feel Haptic Touch is brand relevant. Phaeton has the same,” says Head of Electronic Development, Dr Volkmar Tanneberger.
The touchscreen can also be used to zoom in on maps, for instance, as well as select music from a 64GB hard-drive. Bluetooth, USB, auxillary and SD card connectivity, as well as the ability to read all file formats, ensure Golf owners won’t be without music.  The centre display also takes care of trip computer data, while the soft-touch dash is scalloped towards the driver, with more detailed switchgear and similar white-on-black instrumentation. The switchgear has a quality feel, while practicality is even better as the conventional handbrake has been replaced by a smaller, electronic version, allowing for a larger centre console.
The Golf is also big on safety, with Adaptive Cruise Control, City Emergency Braking, Front Assists and Lane Assist. For enthusiasts, there’s optional Dynamic Chassis Control and a ‘progressive’ steering set-up.  The boot is up by 30 litres, which means the new car will match the Ford Focus with 380 litres. Access will be excellent thanks to a wider opening and lower lip, as well as 60/40 split-fold rear seats.
VW has confirmed that its most efficient model, the Golf BlueMotion TDI, will achieve 88.3mpg and emit 85g/km - the best in class. Also confirmed is a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which achieves 58.8mpg.  On average, the new Golf is 23 per cent more fuel-efficient and produces 13.9 per cent less CO2 – these figures don’t include an all-electric version that’s due next year.
Production of the five-door model has already begun, with a 220bhp 2.0 TSI GTI concept expected to be shown at the Paris Motor Show. The Golf Plus, Estate and Cabriolet will continue in MKVI form for the time being.  The new Volkswagen Golf will make its public debut at the Paris Motor Show at the end of September, before  going on sale in December with first deliveries in January 2013. Prices are expected to start from around £15,000.


Greener fleets, fewer cars hit Treasury tax take

23 August 2012

The Treasury’s tax take from company cars has fallen by more than half a billion pounds, according to figures released by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
In 2004/05, HMRC collected £1.42bn in company car tax and £380 million in tax for free fuel, while National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for both totalled £700m.  However, tax revenues for free fuel and benefit-in-kind (BIK) on company cars will have fallen by more than 20% – £390m – to £1.41bn in 2010/11.  Tax receipts from NICs will have also declined by £140m to £560m over the same period, adding up to a total tax shortfall of £530m.
The data also reveals a downward trend in the number of company cars, with a fall of 21% to 950,000 vehicles in 2010/11 from 1.2 million cars in 2004/05.
The concern for fleets now is how the Government intends to plug this widening gap in revenues it receives from taxing employers and employees operating company cars.  Documents obtained by the BVRLA under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Government hopes to earn an extra £2bn from company car tax between 2013 and 2017.  It also intends to make nearly one million fewer cars eligible for 100% first year or standard tax relief during the same period.
The Treasury has already announced that company car rates from 2014 to 2016 will see the appropriate percentage of list price subject to tax increase by one point for cars emitting more than 75g/km of CO2, to a maximum of 35% in 2014/15, and by two percentage points to a maximum of 37% in both 2015-16.  The capital allowance/lease rental restriction thresholds are also lowered in April 2013 from 160g/km to 130g/km.
And from April 2015, the five-year exemption for zero carbon and ultra-low carbon emission vehicles will come to an end.   The appropriate percentage for zero emission and low carbon vehicles will be 13% from April 2015 and 15% from April 2016.
ACFO chairman Julie Jenner is worried that further action will be taken. “HM Revenue needs revenue and the concern ACFO has on behalf of its members is where this shortfall is going to come from,” she said.
Cars have become more fuel efficient and less polluting, driving down CO2 emissions and resulting in employees paying less in BIK.  In 2009/10 – the most recent year where HMRC has not based its figures on projections – about 60% of company car drivers had cars emitting less than 165g/km of CO2, but 81% had emissions from 135g/km.


UK vehicle manufacturing rises 20% in July

22 August 2012

Car output rose for the 13th consecutive month, up 22.2% in July and 15.1% for the year-to-date while CV output stabilised down 1.3% in the month with a 7.7% fall for the first seven months.
UK engine production was up 0.3% over the year, with a narrow 1.9% downturn in the month.
"Car manufacturing continued to perform well, with output up more than 22% for the month and 15% for the year-to-date," said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive. "While uncertainty in Europe remains a challenge, the £6 billion investment committed to the UK in the last two years delivers long-term growth opportunities and the latest figures show that our products have enormous global appeal."


Wide area 20 mph zones are a waste of money?

22 August 2012

The Association of British Drivers (ABD) deplores the call by some Liberal Democrats to impose a 20-mph speed limit in all residential areas, effectively replacing the 30 limit by 20.
 The ABD suggests there is no evidence that this will have any benefit in reducing injuries and deaths from road traffic accidents, while it will impose very substantial costs to both implement this change and in on-going costs imposed on drivers because of the increased travel times that would result.
ABD chairman Brian Gregory had this to say: "As with most pet road safety ideas proposed by amateur enthusiasts - speed humps, speed cameras, etc, - there is little attempt to collect scientifically sound evidence of the benefit of such ideas. No proper controlled, "double-blind" trials are undertaken. The enthusiasts rely on the strength of their rhetoric and the use of selective data to make their case. Don't be fooled by these methods but look at the facts. And remember that all road safety schemes should be cost justified because if there are better things to spend the money on, then that is where the limited funds should be spent".
The ABD suggests that instead of wasting money on this idea, any cash available would be better spent on other road safety projects because it is likely to result in much better returns on the investment.


TfL praised for Games transport

16 August 2012

An efficient logistic network is key to the success of an event of any size but, with the eyes of the world focussing on the London for two weeks, thorough planning and preparation resulted in little disruption to freight services across the capital, reports the Road Haulage Association (RHA).
"This, without doubt, was down to the hard work of Transport for London," said RHA chief executive Geoff Dunning. "Whether by public transport or use of the Olympic Route Network, they certainly fulfilled their task of keeping London moving and it's good to know that based on the past two weeks, the Paralympics will run equally smoothly.
The RHA also congratulated all the transport operators, transport managers and the HGV drivers involved in delivering the 2012 Olympics; their contribution made the whole two weeks of games and events possible.
"It is inevitable that any large occasion will have its logistical pitfalls. However, I am absolutely thrilled that an event of this magnitude was delivered on time and without any discernible problem,” added Dunning.  "Trucks played such a massive, if silent part in the success of 2012 that it was with immense pride we saw their contribution recognised at the beginning of last night's closing ceremony.  London 2012 has proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt that UK hauliers really do deliver. Without them, and the help and assistance from TfL, this massive success for Great Britain would not have been half as great.”

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