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  • Paris motor show live 5

    September 30, 2010 @ 5:05 pm | by Michael McAleer

    It’s our car of the show – the one that has the wow factor over all the rest: Jaguar’s C-X75 concept. As good as it looks in the images, it’s breathtaking in the metal. Officially a concept supercar to mark the 75th anniversary of the brand, it hints at a great new model to come.

    The concept is a range-extended supercar with four 195bhp electric motors – one at each wheel – that ultimately offers up a whopping 780bhp and 1,600Nm of torque. A 0-100km/h time of 3.4 seconds is claimed, along with a top speed 330km/h.

    Two micro gas‐turbines, spinning at 80,000 rpm, can generate enough electricity to extend the range to a remarkable 560 miles; and produce just 28 grams of CO2 per kilometre from the car’s plug‐in charge capability. A zero tailpipe emissions range of 110km (68 miles) while running solely on battery power

    So if the car ever made it to production in this guise, it would carry no tax – or income for the boys and girls in the Department of Finance.

    Jaguar says the car “hints at an exciting evolution of Jaguar’s design language while paying homage to some of its most admired cars of years gone by.”

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    However a major product offensive by the brand in the coming years is expected to include a supercar, one that would offer a fully-fledged challenger to the Porsche 911 Turbo.

    Another showstopper is the Ferrari Aperta SA, a limited editions soft-top version of the 599. It takes one of the best-looking cars in the Ferrari stable at present, chops the roof off and ultimately improves an already eyecatching look.

    The car has been created in honour of the 80th anniversary of Pininfarina, the design company that’s had a hand in the styling of Ferrari’s most successful road cars. Aperta means “open” in Italian, while the “SA” in the name stands for Sergio (Pininfarina’s honorary chairman) and Andrea Pininfarina (the grandson of company founder Battista “Pinin” Farina).

    Mazda at the Paris Motor Show

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  • Live from the Paris motor show part 4

    @ 1:11 pm | by Michael McAleer

    If Nissan and Mitsubishi are leading the electric charge in Ireland then Renault is not far behind. As it prepares for the launch next year of the e-Fluence, an electric version of the saloon car already on sale in Ireland, it has also previewed its new Zoe concept at the Paris show, effectively 95 per cent production ready according to company executives. A Clio-sized full electric car it will be weith us in the next few years.

    Renault Zoe

    The firm is also showcasing its sports car concept, Dezir. From the drawing board of its new design chief Laurens van de Acker – formerly of Mazda – the car features some of his design traits, like the fibrous wave grilles. It’s less a template for a sports car and more the start of a major design offensive as the brand is desperate to add some desirability to the look of its cars, which some regard as rather dull in comparison to rivals like Citroen, for example.

    Renault DeZir

    Over at the chevron brand, the centre of attention is the new C4 and its more muscular derivative, the DS4. While we’ve already reported on the test drive of the C4, the DS4 is a very different beast. Part small SUV/part coupe/part hatchback, Citroen is eager to stress that it crosses several niches and is perhaps pitched best at the sort of buyers who took to the Nissan Qashqai in big numbers.

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    The look is more adventurous than the relatively conservative C4, with its Irish arrival pencilled in for June next year. The regular C4 will be in Ireland from January 4th and the French hopes it will finally challenge the big players like Ford’s Focus and VW’s Golf. It’s low emissions engines will help, for it aims to have the 1.6-litre e-HDI diesel model to market with 110bhp and 109g/km at launch, but developments during the year will bring that down to under 100g/km before the end of next year.

    The 16-litre e-HDI will feature across the range, coming in the C3 with 93g/km and the C4 Picasso with 130g/km.

    The good news on emissions doesn’t end there. This engine is being constantly improved and while initial versions will feature the mediocre EGS semi-automatic transmission a manual version – but still with sub-100g/km emissions  – will be on sale by 2012.

    Prices for the new C4 are likely to start at €20,000, with the DS4 estimated closer to €25,000.

    Citroen also has a version of the Mitsubishi i-Miev on offer from January and are finalising plans to offer a lease deal on it. If the UK offer is anything to go by then expect a four-year deal for about €450 a month, after which Citroen will offer to sell the car to the customer or offer second four-year lease deal at a lower price.

    Mercedes carried on from where it left off yesterday with more details on the striking looking new CLS. A new multi-link suspension and new electric power steering system feature on the car, alongside the low emission engines. However, the news was not so good on the electric A-Class, where 500 are being built, all in left-hand drive and on the roads with pre-determined test owners, very much along the lines of the way Mini introduced its electric prototype. It seems that it might be some time yet before your local Mercedes dealer is selling anything with a plug attached.

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    Probably the star of the show so far is the stunning Jaguar C-X75 which has four electric motors and is capable of 330km/h, has 780hp and 1600Nm of torque.

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  • Live from the Paris Motor Show Part 3

    @ 12:06 pm | by Michael McAleer

    Toyota’s new Verso-S

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  • Live from the Paris Motor Show Part 2

    @ 10:33 am | by Michael McAleer
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    Video of the new Peugeot 508 which comes to Ireland in April 2011.

    We take a look at the Dacia brand – the Duster is a cut-price SUV that comes in 2012.YouTube Preview Image

    Footage of the new VW Passat

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  • Paris motor show live: Mercedes marks 125 years since it “invented the car”

    @ 8:23 am | by Michael McAleer

    Michael McAleer

    January 29th: mark the date, for Mercedes claims it as the birthday of the automobile as we know it. On that date 125 years ago Carl Benz registered his patent and so the three-pointed star was born. Kudos goes to Guinness, for one suspects the template of Arthur’s Day is being used by the car firm.

    In a rally cry for the impact of the car in modern society, Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche  said “the USP (unique selling point) of the automobile is liberte. Independence. Self-determination. Because a car puts you in control. You’re no longer a passenger in life. That’s why young people can’t wait to get their driver’s licenses, while senior citizens hate the thought of giving theirs away.

    “Consider this: before Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz invented the automobile, the ‘average European’ travelled only 20kms per year. Today it’s at least the same distance per day – and most of it by car. Just ask yourself, what job would you be doing today if all your career options had to be in walking distance to the place you were born?”

    At a pre-show event held in the famous UGC cinema on the Champs Elysee, he referred to the economic impact of the motor industry in Europe. “The auto industry generates more than €370 billion of tax revenues in Europe alone per year. The income of more than 12 million European families depends directly or indirectly on the auto industry.”  

    Looking to the future of the car and electric models in particular he referred to the importance of the premium sector in securing their viability. “The age of e-mobility will come through innovation. And the premium segment, in particular, will fuel it. Why, because you need both the higher disposable income of premium customers and the engineering competence of premium manufacturers to bring [the technology] to market.”

    Mercedes is preparing an electric version of the A-Class with a range of 200km and making its world debut at the show today. But the more immediate news for Irish buyers is that Mercedes is continuing to dramatically cut the emissions levels of its current range. Since the end of last year the average for its fleet is 160g/km and it plans to bring that down to 140g/km by 2012 – a 40 per cent drop since 1995.

    Specific models that will catch the attention of Irish buyers is the new CLS 250 CDI, with emissions of just 134g/km. The same engine is also going into the S-Class, giving it an emissions rating of just 149g/km.

    The fact that two big luxury saloons now fall into tax bands B and C respectively is great news for consumers but must be causing headaches at the Department of Finance, where the speed with which carmakers are reducing emissions is seriously cutting the tax revenue under the current emissions bands set in January 2009. From a Green perspective it can be argued that the tax has been a huge success in pushing down emissions, but from a Revenue point of view it has to hurt and increases the likelihood that an adjustment of the tax bands might be considered in the upcoming budget.

    Alongside the launch of the A-Class E-Cell and the new CLS, Mercedes is also showing a concept version of an estate CLS, that’s due for production in 2013. It’s a very smartly styled car that will prove a hit with continental buyers, who have long preferred estate or wagons to saloons, even in the premium class.

    Paris is being used as the start of a countdown to the 125th anniversary, when Mercedes says it will mark the occasion not just with marketing, but with another patent registration it claims will be as innovative and revolutionary as the one by Gottlieb Daimler in 1886. Mark the date in your diary.

  • Live from the Paris Motor Show Part 1

    @ 7:25 am | by Michael McAleer

    10.46

    Peugeot have unveiled their HR1 Concept car.

    Peugeot HR1

    It’s only a concept for now but it’s got styling cues pointing to the look of the replacement for the current 207, due for replacement in 2012. Under the bonnet is also a new engine that will feature in that car: a 1.2-litre three-cylinder that puts out 110bhp. However, in the HR1 it’s part of a petrol-electric hybrid set-up and as such manages 80g/km with a combined power output of 147bhp. While it’s still not clear if hybrid will feature in the 2012 207 replacement, the three-cylinder petrol engine certainly will.

    Peugeot is also pushing its Ion electric car, effectively a rebadged Mitsubishi i-Miev, though no one with a Peugeot nametag would say such a thing. While there’s no confirmed arrival date for Ireland, the French brand is launching the car in France and the UK, where they’ve taken a different strategy to the likes of Nissan and Mitsubishi in leasing the car. Prices are steep, with a monthly payment of £415 plus VAT per month for four years in Britain, but they’re quick to point out that the savings on running costs need to be factored in when considering the deal.  At a cost of £2.50 to fully charge for 180kms, the French firm claims the savings on fuel along with tax incentives make it a viable proposition for fleet buyers in urban areas.

    In reality there is little expectation of leasing deals with private buyers. For them Peugeot believes the answer is not electric for now, but diesel hybrid.  The new 3008 diesel hybrid has emissions of 99g/km, which is impressive given the size and stature of the car, not to mention it’s a four-wheel-drive. It will be February 2012 before it arrives in Ireland, followed on by diesel hybrid versions of the new 508 and RCZ sports coupe.

    10.36

    We have just seen the reveal of the Peugeot 508. The new car arrives in Ireland at the end of April, with a starting price of around €25,000. The main bulk of the sales will come from the 110hp 1.6 HDi. The generously-sized 508 continues the obvious step-up in quality from the French firm.

    Peugeot 508

    8.50AM Toyota’s press conference has just started – they have explained that despite their difficulties this year that sales have been strong with 800,000 units sold. They are just unveiling the new Verso-S, a compact MPV. The new car will have Band A emissions of 119g/km for the 1.4 D-4D and will go on sale in February.

    Toyota Verso-S

    Opel has started the ball rolling at the Paris Motor Show with the unveiling of the concept GTC Paris and the premiere of the new station wagon version of the Astra, the Sports Tourer. “We are progressing swiftly with our growth plan. Today we have the best product portfolio ever. And we’re just getting started,” Opel/Vauxhall CEO Nick Reilly said at the company’s press conference at the Opel stand. The Astra GTC is expected to be very close to the car we see here and this will add to the 200,000 units of 5-door Astra that Opel has already sold across Europe. A second highlight of the show is the Astra Sports Tourer, which is a pretty-looking estate that has load capacity of 1550 litres.

    Opel Astra Sports Tourer and GTC Concept

  • Live from Paris: Passat stars among VW Group’s League of Nations

    @ 12:42 am | by Michael McAleer

    With a pre-show event this good you would wonder, what is the need for the actual show itself? VW Group flexed its muscles in Paris this evening with a display of their combined wealth and a generous sneak preview into the cars that will make up their Paris showcase.

    In an event that was attended by scores of information-hungry media, the entire VW Group displayed an omnibus edition of their new product range with everything from the green and friendly Skoda range to the beautifully obnoxious new carbon fibre Lamborghini, the new Bentley Continental,the Porsche 911 Speedster and the Bugatti Veyron.

    The VW Group are quietly going about an assault of the market, with more than 5 million vehicles worldwide delivered between January to September 2010. Shown tonight were the SEAT IBE, the Caddy Blue Motion and the E-Octavia. At the other end of the scale, the fireworks and pomp that surrounded the Porsche, Bentley and Bugatti reveals were astonishing.

    The Lamborghini Sesto Elemento obviously grew gasps when it was revealed because this carbon fibre Batmobile-lookalike has a mighty 570hp and takes just 2.5 seconds to get to 100km/h. Although it’s not planned as a production model Lamborghini says the concept previews the patented carbon-fibre-reinford plastic (CFRP) technologies that will be highly evident in the next new models to emerge from the Sant’ Agata factory.

    SEAT showed their IBE concept. Heaven knows if this will amount to anything but it certainly looked good.

    SEAT IBE

    What we do know about this new car is that it is a zero-emission model, with an electric powertrain with 102hp.

    The show-stopper from Audi on the night was the reveal of the Audi quattro concept which was a surprise to most. In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the debut of the quattro Audi is showing this futuristic concept of the car with a 408hp, five-cylinder turbocharged engine, a lightweight body and permeanant all-wheel drive. The car features a shortened (-150mm) RS5 platform and this car is primarily made from aluminium. 0-100km/h takes 3.9 seconds.

    Audi quattro concept

    Probably the most relevant news of the evening surrounds the reveal of the Volkswagen Passat which is of course a massive car for the Irish market. The new car is based on the existing platform but every body panel has changed and there are changes to the engine line-up which mean that even more of the models are in the lowest tax band, A. The 1.6-litre TDi will have emissions of 109g/km, but the 2.0-litre TDi will also reside in Band B too, with the Bluemotion model having emissions of 138g/km.

    Volkswagen Passat

    The new Passat arrives in Ireland in December and will reach customers as soon as January 2011.

  • Style very much over substance at the Mini Scooter launch

    September 26, 2010 @ 8:32 pm | by Michael McAleer

    Having recently celebrated by 34th birthday, I suddenly realised that a few things had passed me by. Fashion is one of these things. Suddenly, I don’t know what I am supposed to wear to fit in. I have been wearing check shirts since 1987 and quite accidentally I find that I am temporarily somewhat in fashion again. But I wasn’t quite prepared for how out of place I would feel at last week’s launch of the new range of Mini Scooter concepts. But then again, I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.

    Mini, that being the new Mini brand conceived by BMW in the late 1990s and which gave birth to the current Mini model range which has recently expanded to include the Mini Countryman SUV is now turning its attention to scooters, but not just any old scooters. They will be electric powered. But rather than just wait to show us these at a motor show, they decided to launch these in London, where the original Mini was made ultra cool and where scooters such as Vespas were king in the 1960s.

    The Mini Scooters

    We had left miserable Ireland in the afternoon and arrived in London to be collected by a chauffer-driven BMW 7-Series, which was lovely and driven into central London to a hotel called St.Martin’s Lane, an ultra-trendy 5-star hotel that I was shocked to find had a vending machine in it designed for rich, forgetful people. Supposing you have just checked into the hotel and realise minutes before your date with Elle McPherson that you have forgotten your watch? Never mind. You can always nip downstairs, pop in your credit card to the machine in the lobby and out will pop a £6,950 vintage Rolex watch. Marvellous.

    Rich folk's vending machine

    Forgotten your watch? No problem.

    Anyway, having negotiated the very busy streets of London to find the Vinyl Factory at Phonica records in Soho where this unveiling would take place it was fun to notice the new London uniform of the fashion glitterati. Glasses. Big, nerdy glasses. Models wore them, men wore them, everyone seemed to wear them. Some people didn’t have glass in them.

    Mini had clearly paid most of the people in attendance. Model Agyness Deyn, a London icon, who looked a little like an eight-year old boy, had been paid probably considerable amounts of money to pose for pictures and show up at the unveiling. Some members of the motoring press looked on in amusement as Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s senior vice president of design attempted to launch the three new scooters, which incidentally are very cool, to an audience that sadly was way cooler. At a motoring event, all present will hang on van Hooydonk’s every word, but here, everyone appeared to be at the bar. Clearly, 80 percent of the people in attendance weren’t entirely sure why they were there, or really cared.

    Is anyone listening?

    The thing is that the scooters are cool. There were three versions, with the coolest for me being the one that was British Racing Green. You use an iPhone as the key and that slots into the ‘dashboard’ of the scooter and works as a sat nav and also monitors your energy use too. The idea is cool and without a doubt the fashionistas who were in attendance will snap them up, if and when they ever go on sale. We will be sure to remind them closer to the time though.

    The line-up

  • General Motors shows its vision of the Future

    September 10, 2010 @ 10:12 pm | by Michael McAleer

    How will we travel in the 2030′s? That was the question posed by General Motors today in London as they bring their Shanghai Expo much closer to home – to London, where a presentation by Dr. Christopher Borroni-Bird and Sergio Loureiro da Silva explores their vision of the future in terms of design, technology, engineering accommodating and enhancing everyday life in the 2030′s.

    Dr. Christopher Borroni-Bird

    Borroni-Bird is a smart chap. He earned his Ph.D in Surface Science at University of Liverpool and completed it at Cambridge and joined General Motors in 2000 as Director of Design and Technology Fusion and now holds an equally cool title in Director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts and is charged with the rather lofty task of GM’s “Reinvention of the Automobile” program.

    Part of this vision involves having a car network which is not only petroleum and emissions free, but is also accident free, on roads that are congestion free. This vision will be enabled by a new DNA for vehicles which will be based on electrification and connectivity .

    Here in Ireland, we might complain about the traffic from time to time, but we really don’t know much about really bad congestion. In Bangkok, traffic police are ritually trained to be able to deliver babies, because congestion can be so bad, that there are often children born in traffic jams. There will be more than 1.2 billion cars on the earth in 30 years from now and in just 20 years from now, 60 per cent o f the world’s population will live in urban areas. By 2030, China’s estimated urban population will reach 1 billion and no prizes for guessing which country is one of the fastest-growing in terms of car ownership. And across the world, it is developing cities which are also the most densely populated.

    The thing is that the cars that we use in cities, according to Borroni-Bird are over-engineered for the job they do and we could get by with a much smaller, much cleaner and ultimately much more clever solution. And this has culminated in the EN-V Concept, which is being showcased at the World Expo in Shanghai, a city which could well do with it being launched next week. “The car is over-engineered for urban use. If you are a person who spends most of your time in the city, and driving in a city, it does create some side-effects which are not very good from a city perspective, like congestion and parking, energy consumption, air pollution and traffic safety. What we thinking about in the future is, a small vehicle that is easy to park, will be energy efficient and very affordable, that is clean and has the ability to communicate with other vehicles using wireless technology, not dissimilar to wifi, which could allow vehicles to be clean and address the energy issue, but also address traffic management and safety, between vehicles and pedestrians.”

    The result is the EN-V, which can best be described as a Segway with a roof. (This is a joint effort with GM and Segway). The vehicle is powered by a small electric motor, with a pretty small battery stack that will neither break the bank nor take up the sort of room that is currently filling much of the floor-plan of a Mitsubishi iMiev or Nissan LEAF. The EN-V is a two-seater with a footprint that is about a third of a traditional vehicle.

    EN-V

    It can spin and turn on its axis, thus making it easier to use in a city and perhaps best of all, you won’t even have to do anything when you get into it, aside from perhaps chat to your friends via video link, update your Facebook or watch a film.

    You won’t need to find a parking space for it either, a maddening task in an urban environment, which according to GM’s figures, wastes 30 per cent of driver’s fuel in megacities, because this car will wander off and find its own spot, before coming back to you when required. Think KITT in Knight Rider, with Michael Knight summoning his car via his Casio and you get the picture. Cars won’t use fuel because they are electric, won’t crash into each other because they communicate with each other and won’t run over people because they have more sensors than the Louvre in Paris. And because the EN-V features dynamic stabilization technology, it balances on two wheels and therefore has a smaller footprint. Yes, it is a difficult technology to make, no it doesn’t have suspension so a pothole or speed bump would be like krptonite to Superman and the space in the seats mean it isn’t for the fat, but the EN-V represents the visions of some pretty smart folks.

    A family could have two of these in their household, having them traveling in convoy – or Platooning – on a family day out and because they drive themselves to their assigned destination, they can be driven by the older driver or by disabled drivers. Sure enough,there is little for the occupant to do, but then the greatest danger in a car is usually the eejit steering it anyway.

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    Obviously this all might take a while and it does pose a lot of questions. For a start, surely all of this will only work if every other car is also wireless and smart. Plus, where do you put your shopping? Where do you put your kids?

    So what do you think? What will  you be driving in 2030? Pretty much the same thing we are now or will you jump in your EN-V, read the paper and get taken to work, stress, pollution and accident free?

  • Ireland’s 20 cleanest cars

    September 8, 2010 @ 3:17 pm | by Michael McAleer

    What are Ireland’s cleanest cars? That was the question that came into Motors from a reader and as usual, we decided to do our best to find out.

    Make Model CO2 g/km Fuel Economy MPG Fuel Economy l/100km
    Toyota Auris Hybrid 89 74.3 3.8
    Toyota Prius 89 72.4 3.9
    Skoda Fabia Estate Greenline 89 83.1 3.4
    Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion 89 83.1 3.4
    Renault Clio dCi 86 98 76.3 3.7
    Seat Ibiza 1.4 TDi Ecomotive 98 76.3 3.7
    Opel Corsa 1.3 CDTi 98 76.3 3.7
    Toyota iQ 99 64.2 4.4
    Citroen DS3 1.6 HDi 99 74.3 3.8
    Citroen C3 1.6 HDi 99 74.3 3.8
    Mini Cooper D 99 74.3 3.8
    Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion 99 74.3 3.8
    Volvo C30 1.6 DRIVe 99 74.3 3.8
    Honda Insight 101 64.2 4.4
    Nissan Pixo 103 64.3 4.4
    Suzuki Alto 103 64.2 4.4
    Fiat 500 1.3 Multijet 104 70.6 4
    Ford Focus 1.6 Duratorq 104 70.6 4
    Volvo S40 DRIVe 104 72.4 3.9
    Volvo V50 DRIVe 104 72.4 3.9

    These are Ireland’s cleanest cars, based on C02 emissions and it serves to illustrate just how far cars have come in the last few years. When the changes came to the road tax and VRT laws in July 2008, there were only a handful of cars that occupied Band A and now, within a short space of time this category has grown.

    Toyota Auris Hybrid: forthcoming model will have emissions of 89g/km

    The average new car sold in Ireland this year has emissions of 135g/km. Over the same period last year the average was 150.6g/km. On average, new cars purchased in 2007 emitted 3.6 tonnes of CO2 per annum and the ”average” car in 2007 had a rating of 164 g CO2/km and would  be classified as ’D’ under the current labelling scheme  attracting annual road tax of €430.

    This dramatic drop in average emissions since 2007 from 164g/km to 135g/km this year can in part be attributed to the advances in new technology, but it can also be largely attributed to taxes. Back in 2007, if car’s had been classified by their CO2 emissions, the most popular Band was Band D, with 45,596 (24.8 per cent) cars having emissions of between 156-170g/km.

    This was closely followed by Band C, from 141-155g/km with 43,160 units (23,17 per cent). Perhaps a sign of the times was that the third most popular Band was Band E, with 40,382 units (21.68%) of the market. There were just 903 or 0.48 per cent of new cars sold with emissions of 120g/km or less, mainly because they didn’t exist.

    Back in 2007 petrol powered cars made up 70.99 per cent of the market and diesel 27.99 per cent.

    Look at 2010 and the shift towards lower emissions is also reflected in the tax bands, where 75 per cent of new cars now fall into band A or B. 44.78 percent of these are Band B cars, with emissions of 121-140g/km and Band A now makes up 33.48 per cent of the new car market. This year, so far, 63.87 per cent of new cars sold are powered by diesel with just 32.23 per cent powered by petrol engines. Band E, the third most popular segment in 2007 now makes up just 2.43 per cent of new car sales.

    But would Irish buyers have made the switch to these cleaner cars all on their own if the penalties for driving higher emission vehicles hadn’t been so punitive? I seriously doubt it. The executive SUV segment, for example, fell 92 per cent because of the new system.

    It hasn’t been all bad for the executive buyer however, as advances from the German car firm’s in particular have meant that Ireland’s CO2 emission regulations have seen tailor made for them. The BMW 520d is a prime example. Here is a car that used to cost around €55,000 for a half decent one and now you can have the new model, which has emissions of less than 137g/km for less than €42,000 because you pay less VRT on it and significantly lower road tax. The top-selling car in August this year was the BMW 520d. The same is true for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which is now a major beneficiary of the new tax system, costing close to €20,000 less than it did three years ago.

    BMW 520d: Top selling model in August

    However, if you look at the list of the cleanest cars for this year, you will note that 13 of them have emissions of less than 100g/km and currently there is no extra incentive to buy these, unlike many other countries in Europe. Perhaps now it is time to revise the current system to reflect the work that is being done by manufacturers to reduce emissions even further.

  • RSA introduce new measures for learner drivers

    September 2, 2010 @ 12:01 am | by Michael McAleer

    The RSA has announced a series of measures which it is hoped will make learner driver’s better prepared for the road and which will cut down on the number of road deaths in the vulnerable 17-24 year-old age group. So, are they any use and are they workable?

    The nine new measures are:

    “All new first time learner permit holders with effect from 6th December 2010 for motorcycles and 4th April 2011 for cars will be required to undertake mandatory initial basic training (IBT) with an approved driving instructor (ADI). The course will be 16 hours for motorcycle and 12 hours for car licences.”

    This is clearly a good thing and few would argue with the need for compulsory training and the fact that these are going to be undertaken by certified, registered instructors is likely to raise the standard of tuition.

    “The role of the supervising driver accompanying learner drivers will be strengthened and we will introduce a requirement for learner drivers to keep a learner log to be signed by their approved driving instructor and their accompanying driver.”

    Noel Brett, speaking on RTE Drivetime, said that the RSA see an increased role for parents and guardians to take a more active interest in the tuition of younger and more inexperienced drivers. Provisional license holders have always been required to have a fully licenced driver with them. That was the theory at least, but this was rarely enforced without good reason. It was and remained pretty impractical for learner drivers to bring a licenced driver with them all the time, whether it is legal or not. Speak to Gardai privately and they will tell you that they aren’t in the habit of pulling over learner driver’s who aren’t accompanied unless they bring particular attention to themselves. Now, the idea is that your licenced driver will not only sit there and fill a passenger seat only, but will serve to help the ‘student’ through a series of modules. These are expected to include things like night driving. These modules will consist of three hours of guidance on various tasks.

    “The drink driving limits for drivers with learner permits and those in their first two years on a full driving licence will be reduced to 20mg/100ml. This legislation has been passed by the Oireachtas and will come into effect in September 2011.”

    With the rest of us due to have our limit reduced to 50mg/100ml, having a reduced limited for learner and ‘novice’ drivers makes a degree of sense. However, a salient point made on one of the radio programmes is that female drivers ages 17-24 are statistically safer than every male driver category, so is it fair to negatively penalise newly qualified female drivers, even if they are less likely, according to the RSA’s own figures, than male driver’s with years of experience?

    “The penalty points for specified offences will be increased for learner and novice drivers so that accumulation of penalty points during the learning phase and in the first two years on a full licence will pose a real threat of disqualification and will impact positively on risk taking and driver behaviour.”

    The same can be said of this as the one before. Sure enough, this might discourage younger, newly-qualified drivers to not misbehave but is this fair for an older newly qualified driver or for females, who tend to take less risks anyway? However perhaps the benefits of this could outweigh the drawbacks. Young drivers, especially young male drivers tend to take more risks, so a deterant such as this would perhaps make younger drivers get into the habit behaving better, sooner.

    “A standard Hazard Perception Test will be developed and carried out during the novice driver phase. The hazard perception test will specifically address risk taking and perception of risk among novice drivers.”

    Rather than having a test that involved driving like a nun around town, being negatively marked, the test might be more practical. Noel Brett mentioned that a test could involve the participant being asked to drive to a hospital without direction and they would be measured on their competence throughout the journey.

    “The current driving test will be modernised to more effectively reflect driver competencies and to influence the learning undertaken by learners. We will introduce a new externally accredited driving test format in the last quarter of 2011.”

    Naturally it is hoped that there will be elements included in the new test format that will be more relevant to the actual driving that people undertake everyday, so this might include elements of dual carraigeway driving and at a later stage, a motorway element, although this is something that is likely to take some time.

    “Novice drivers will be required to display an R (restricted) plate during the first two years of their full driving licence to support the restrictions that are placed on their licence for that duration.”

    This has been in place in Northern Ireland for some time. This allows easier enforcement of the restrictions that are put in place on the newly qualified drivers. Compliance of this is likely to be pretty poor though and again, it would require added enforcement, something that is pretty unlikely. This is likely to be one of the least welcome measures from those who have followed all the guidelines and successfully passed their test.

    “The current Driver Theory Test question bank and supporting learning materials will be reconfigured to make it more effective as a learning tool.”

    The theory test does need to be modernised and is widely regarded as not being very challenging.

    We will engage with the Department of Justice and Law Reform, the Gardai and the Courts Service to develop the range and combination of sentencing options available to the courts for driving offences for learner and novice drivers.

    New punishments will include a requirement to retake a driving test; fit a speed limiter, being barred from carrying passengers and/or having a curfew imposed on their car usage. The legislation will also provide for an alcolock to be fitted to the car of those convicted of drink driving, and the introduction of a tracking device. These measures could take quite some time to be introduced and again could be a nightmare to enforce.

    For more on this see:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/0901/breaking51.html


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