Automotive News, January 2017

A new report says Britain’s automotive industry looks set to continue its growth thanks to increased demand abroad and the development of cutting edge tech.  The report highlights increased demand for UK exports as well as the development of cutting edge technologies that are being demanded by manufacturers and consumers across the world.

Despite the UK being the 13th largest automotive manufacturer in the world, it exports a larger proportion of automotive output than countries such as India, Brazil and France according to the report. The vast majority of British exports are vehicles, which was worth £25.5 billion in 2015 followed by parts for vehicles, which was worth £4.2 billion and means the UK is rated 9th in the world in terms of exports by value.

The report goes on to predict that increased exports will help the UK car industry to grow, particularly with the fall in the value of the pound, which has made UK exports more competitive overseas. The report also says that exports have already seen the positives of a weaker pound after growing by 16% in the 11 months to November 2016 compared to the same period the year before.

As well as exports, it has been suggested that a focus on new technologies will also be a central driver to the growth of the UK automotive industry. The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) predicts that autonomous and connected vehicles will add £51 billion a year to the UK economy by 2030. They also believe that autonomous vehicles could create 25,000 jobs in the sector and increase GDP by 1% by 2030.





Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has promised to keep its roots in Britain after the German-owned company announced its second highest sales record in over a century.  The West Sussex-based firm – which is owned by auto giant BMW – sold 4,011 cars in more than 50 countries in 2016, up 6% on 2015.

The company saw a 26% sales spike in its UK home market, while sales in the US jumped 10%, China rose 23% and Japan soared 51%.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos said: “This remarkable result emphatically affirms the global appeal of the very finest British luxury goods to the world’s most discerning patrons.” He added: “We are deeply committed to a long term, sustainable, successful growth strategy and this result, amidst a backdrop of global uncertainty, affirms this approach. 2016 has proven the perfect year to sign off the successful first chapter of the renaissance of Rolls-Royce. “Success for Rolls-Royce is success for Great Britain and we reaffirm our commitment to maintaining the home of Rolls-Royce in the UK.”

Rolls-Royce says it is planning to extend its 30,000 square metre Technology and Logistics Centre in Bognor Regis – close to its manufacturing hub in Goodwood, West Sussex – in 2017 by nearly 10,000 square metres “to meet growing demand and in readiness for future models”.

The company now employs 1,700 people, a near 500% increase on its 350-strong team in 2003.





Rivian Automotive, a relatively unknown US electric vehicle start-up burst into the spotlight buying a huge new factory.

The company has confirmed the purchase of a large former Mitsubishi car factory In Normal, Illinois for an undisclosed price.  Measuring in with a total footprint of 2.4 million sq. ft., the factory is about half as large as Tesla’s newly opened Gigafactory.

Rivian itself was founded in 2009, and until recently only has around 100 workers. In 2015 Rivian reportedly received significant funding from an unknown investor, providing it with the money it needed to buy this factory and amp up its operations.

The company plans to invest $175m into the Normal site and claims that it will create at least 1000 jobs.  Rivian intends for the new factory to function as a full-scale production line for its first line of electric vehicles. The company has yet to reveal any of its prototypes, however, has hinted that it may unveil its first vehicle later this year. If all goes to plan Rivian Automotive plans to initiate full-scale production in the factory by as early as 2019.



The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued a violation notice against Flat Chrysler, stating that the company used management software in several diesel vehicles that reduced their emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides during testing but allowed emissions to rise when the vehicles were on the streets.

The EPA’s notice alleges that Fiat Chrysler used the contentious software in Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Ram models, leading to Increased NOx emissions for three years, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Failure to disclose this was a violation of the Clean Air Act, it adds. The agency has the power to order the company to recall the vehicles – which would affect some 104,000 vehicles In the US – but has not yet done so. A recall order might follow a further Investigation, It said.

Fiat Chrysler issued a statement saying that it believed its emissions control systems met legal requirements. It added that reducing emissions during testing was necessary to balance the EPA’s requirements for low NOx emissions and engine durability, performance, safety and fuel efficiency.





Volkswagen has agreed a draft $4.3bn (£3.5bn) settlement with US authorities over the emissions rigging scandal. The German car maker also said it would plead guilty to breaking certain US laws. 

The final agreement has yet to be approved by VW’s management and supervisory board, which could happed later in the month.  VW said it had negotiated a “concrete draft” of a settlement with US authorities that included criminal and civil fines totalling $4.3bn, as well as appointing an independent monitor for the next three years.

The $4.3bn fine means that the total costs associated with the emissions cheating scandal are set to exceed the $19.2bn the company has set aside to deal with the issue.  VW has already agreed to a $15bn civil settlement with environmental authorities and car owners in the US.




Thousands of UK motorists have signed up to legal action against Volkswagen over the German carmaker’s diesel emissions scandal, the law firm behind the claim said.

Harcus Sinclair said around 10,000 drivers had signed up to the group action, each seeking £3,000 – £4,000 per car.  Volkswagen said it would “robustly” defend the case – which could cost it more than £30m if claims made so far succeed – and that it did not believe customers would miss out due to the scandal.

The case centres on the difference between the price paid by motorists for vehicles and the “inherent value” of what they received, the lawyers said.

In October a Spanish court ruled that the owner of an affected car should be paid €5,000 (£4,300) by the company, but there have been no such pay-outs in the UK.

It emerged last month that the UK is one of four countries facing legal action by the European Union for not imposing penalties on Volkswagen over the issue. Industry figures have shown that Volkswagen UK sales had fallen by 7.5% in 2016.





Carmakers’ claims about the fuel consumption of vehicles sold in the EU are increasingly misleading, resulting in a rowing gap between performance on the road and in official tests, according to a leading environmental group.

Cars sold in the EU last year consumed 42% more fuel on average during real world driving conditions compared with official laboratory tests, a report by transport & Environment said.  That compares with figures showing that cars sold in 2012 consumed 28% more fuel on the road than during the tests conducted by regulators.

The Transport & Environment report reviewed 16 brands. Those with the biggest gap between fuel consumption on the road and in official tests were found to be Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Smart. Some other carmakers did not fare much better. Daimler, parent of Mercedes and Smart, and Audi, owned by Volkswagen, said they complied with relevant legal requirements.

As well as raising issues about whether car buyers were being misled, Transport & Environment also highlighted how the real world fuel performance translated into higher carbon dioxide emissions compared with those recorded in official tests.

The report is based on data collected by the International Council on Clean Transportation, a research firm, which compared the laboratory and on-the road emissions of more than 1m vehicles across the EU.

Mercedes cars used 54% more fuel on average on the road last year than claimed in sales brochures. Audi and Smart used 49% more fuel.





Volkswagen has received approval from German regulators to fix almost 9m cars in Europe caught up in the German carmaker’s diesel emissions scandal.

Germany’s federal motor transport authority has now given final approval for VW’s proposed fixes on all of the offending cars in Europe. “Once modified, the vehicles will also meet all legal requirements and the applicable emissions standards,” said VW.  In the US, where emissions rules are more onerous compared with the EU, regulators have repeatedly rejected VW’s proposed fixes and the carmaker agreed to repurchase 20,000 3-litre diesel cars because a timely solution would not be possible.

VW hopes to recall and fix 60,000 other 3-litre cars in the US, and the Washington-based Environmental Protection Agency estimated these arrangements would cost the group $1bn.





Ford has said it will cancel a $1.6bn (£1.3bn) plant it planned to build in Mexico and instead extend operations at its factory in Michigan. The US car giant will spend $700m on expanding the plant at Flat Rock.

Ford boss Mark Fields said the decision was partly due to falling sales of small cars and partly a “vote of confidence” in Donald Trump’s policies.

Ford is not abandoning production completely in Mexico, but is switching production of its Focus model to its existing plant In Hermosillo there to improve profitability.

It makes the current version at its plant in Wayne in Michigan. Production at that facility will switch to two new models, which it says will safeguard 3,500 US jobs.  The planned $1.6bn plant in Mexico was to be built in San Luis Potosi, but Ford said it would now invest some of that sum in Flat Rock, creating 700 jobs building a range of electric cars.




Jaguar Land Rover has submitted plans to build a new logistics hub on land near to its plant in Solihull.  The site will be used by the car manufacturing giant to receive and store parts to supply to its production facility nearby and the overall scheme will cover 1.04 million square feet.





UK car manufacturing output reached its highest level since 1999 in November, with almost 170,000 vehicles rolling off production lines, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Year-to-date volumes also achieved a 17-year high, with production in the first 11 months of the year rising to 1,613,495 units – already nearly 56,000 units ahead of year-end 2015.

Production for the home market was particularly strong in November, rising 14.0% to 33,745 units, while exports also saw robust growth, up 12.5%. In the year-to-date, output is up across the board, with domestic demand increasing 4.2% and exports enjoying an uplift of 11.1 % to 1,258,909 – beating last year’s record by 2.5%.




Latest figures reveal 2016 was the Year of the Jag, as the West Midlands-built cars accelerated to record-breaking sales. A string of new Jaguars, with their diesel engines made in Wolverhampton, boosted the brand to a huge 45% sales rise last year – a record breaking figure of 34,822 cars in its most successful ever year.

Sister brand Land Rover was up 19.5%, making Jaguar Land Rover the big winner in the UK car sales stakes for 2016, with 117,567 vehicles driven off show room forecourts up and down the land.  News of the UK success came just after JLR revealed a record year in the US, where sales rose to 105,104, up 24%. Jaguar’s US sales more than doubled, thanks to its F-Pace, XE and XF models.  The Range Rover Evoque has also enjoyed its best year yet with sales up 31% on 2015, while the introduction of Ingenium engines helped boost sales of the Discovery Sport by 44%.

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