Tuesday October 25th, 2011 22:55 How Cameras Are Revolutionising Reversing

Car reversing cameras are becoming one of the hottest high-tech gadgets in the automotive industry, and it’s not just families who are flocking to the technology. Empty nesters in their RVs and mobile homes, truckies and tradies alike are embracing the safety and cost benefits of either buying a vehicle with a factory fitted unit or purchasing an after market system. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a reversing camera, which have the potential to save lives and even save you from having to claim on your car insurance.

How they work and what they cost

Reversing cameras are quite simple in the way they work. A small camera is installed at the appropriate height at the back of a vehicle and is connected via wire – or even wireless – to an LCD screen, which is usually attached at a convenient spot on the windscreen or dash, or in the case of factory fitted units, built into the console. As with all technology, you get what you pay for. A basic after market camera with a small screen is going to cost just over $100, but top of the range models which can be fitted to the rear vision mirror can cost around $600. The screen comes in a range of sizes, clarity and perspective – the cameras can take some getting used to as they usually have a very wide angle lense. It will cost a few dollars to have a unit installed as well.

Potential life savers

It’s young families and the makers of cars aimed at this segment of the automotive market that are responsible for the boom in reversing cameras. More and more cameras are coming fitted to family cars as standard, especially as the surge in sales of SUVs shows no signs of slowing. Cameras are most often fitted to wagons and larger SUVs and 4WDs because of their height and size, meaning it is hard to see a small child behind the vehicle. Kids can dash out when drivers least expect it as well, meaning a reversing camera is going to catch them better than any rear vision mirrors. While built-in cameras are usually found in higher spec models, expect them to become more prevalent in basic models before too long.

Preventing bumps and scrapes

Despite the obvious safety benefits of a reversing camera, they can also save you embarrassment and money when it comes to backing a vehicle. Reverse parking is something we are all taught while learning to drive, but it is often a forgotten skill as drivers prefer to find a traditional parking spot which they can drive in to front on. Cameras are bringing back reverse parking, especially when they are coupled with reverse sensors. They give drivers confidence to tackle trickier parking spots by helping to eliminate the worries of hitting another car and causing damage. So it’s worth checking with an insurer if you are searching for car insurance quotes if there is any discount for a camera system.

RVs, trailers and truckies

The benefits of a reversing camera to bigger and longer vehicles far outweigh the costs of installing one. Empty nesters with their RVs, caravans and mobile homes simply couldn’t do without them as they are constantly backing into caravan sites and tight spots in town. The cameras can be mounted on trailers and caravans as well, making them invaluable for holidaymakers, truckies and tradies who are always reversing into specific spots that require precision and patience. Just remember, don’t rely only on the reversing camera. There is no substitute for a second pair of eyes outside the vehicle who can help guide you into tough spots.

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Monday October 24th, 2011 22:22 New Skoda Compact Family Saloon Car Set for 2013 Release


The next few years promise to be pretty busy for Skoda, as it plans to release a new model every six months from next year onwards. Although there is a good chance of a name change by the time of its release, one of these models will be the car currently known as the A-Entry.

Set for release in early 2013, the A-Entry is expected to go head to head with the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Focus in the compact family saloon market.

Last month Skoda displayed the MissionL concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and it is this car upon which the A-Entry is supposedly based on. The new A-Entry is apparently 80% similar to the MissionL concept. At the time of the Frankfurt Motor Show, Skoda personnel were keen to stress the strong focus of the MissionL on two areas – size and affordability – so it will be interesting to see if the A-Entry has a spacious feel to it. If it is anything like the MissionL then it will have plenty of boot space and room in the back of the car.

Skoda is also hopeful of releasing a five-door hatchback version of the new model.

It is obviously far too early for any firm details about the make-up of the car, but we do know customers will have the option of an array of petrol and diesel turbos, These engines will most likely be taken from the Polo and Golf models of Skoda’s parent company. There will also be an eco-friendly version of the car available, and this will apparently emit less than 100g/km of CO2.

If Skoda is to compete in the compact family car range, then you can expect the A-Entry to have a price-tag that is reasonable and affordable for families. With the Fabia currently costing around £10,000 and the Octavia costing in the region of £14,000, it seems reasonable to expect that the A-Entry will cost somewhere around the £12,000 mark when it is finally released in 2013.

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Sunday October 23rd, 2011 20:38 Volkswagen Beetle Set for Spring 2012 Release

Next spring will see the latest version of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle hit the roads of the United Kingdom. The famous German car manufacturer has now opened orders on the new Beetle, and it will cost consumers upwards of £16,490.

In recent years, the Beetle has been regarded by many as nothing more than a fashion accessory to those who know nothing about cars. However, with a press release titled “Less Flower, More Power”, it seems that Volkswagen is looking for the car to be taken more seriously.

At the Beetle’s launch, Volkswagen is offering buyers the option of two different engines – a 1.4-litre TSI engine with a six-speed manual or a 1.2-litre TSI engine with a seven-speed DSG gearbox.

There will be three levels of trim available for the Beetle, and these are the entry-level Beetle trim, the Design trim and the Sport trim. Entry-level Beetles are fitted with air-conditioning, CD player, DAB radio and a central locking system.

Those who opt for the Design trim will also benefit from 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, Fogs, a DAB radio, as well as body-coloured dashboard trim.

Costing £21,220, the most expensive range-topping Sport model will include 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, parking sensors and fancy sports seats.

That won’t be the end of things for the latest version of the Beetle though, as later in 2012 Volkswagen will be adding three new choices of engines for the car. These will be a 1.6-litre TDI Bluemotion Technology model, a 2.0-litre TDI and a 2.0-litre TSI unit. The 2.0-litre TSI unit will have an impressive 197bhp.

The Volkswagen Beetle is available to order now, with deliveries taking place in the spring of 2012.

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Sunday October 23rd, 2011 13:04 Electric Vehicle Sales Still Struggling in UK and Europe

Sales of electric cars in the UK are still struggling, according to new data released by the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

Last month, data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggested that sales of electric cars in the UK were significantly poorer than had been both hoped and anticipated, and it seems that there has been little improvement since then.

The Office of Low Emission Vehicles’ data reveals that only 308 models were bought using the government’s grant scheme in the third quarter of the year.

The government’s grant scheme offers buyers of low emission vehicles a grant of £5,000, but the quarterly statistics have shown a distinct reluctance on the part of UK car consumers to switch towards green cars. In the first quarter of the year, only 465 were registered. Things were even worse in the second quarter, with only 215 EVs registered.

The electric car grant scheme has a total fund of £43 million – a figure large enough to cover 8,600 EVs – but at this slow rate it will take years to reach that full amount. At the moment, under £4 million of this grant money has been spent.

At a time when the UK’s economy is struggling, you would think that a £5,000 grant would act as a great incentive for UK drivers, but clearly more work has to be done to encourage people to switch to low emission vehicles.

The move towards universal electric car chargers is the type of thing that will hopefully assure drivers that switching to an electric vehicle will not prove to be more hassle than it’s worth.

It’s not just in the UK that electric vehicle sales are struggling. Belgians get a subsidy of just under €11,000 euros, yet only 85 electric vehicles were purchased there in the first half of 2011. In Norway, where a grant of €17,524 is offered, only 850 EVs were purchased over the same period.

Hopefully the fourth quarter will show an improvement in green car sales, but with so much economic uncertainty, people need to be made much more aware of these grants and subsidies.

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Thursday October 20th, 2011 21:55 Mercedes to Release A-Class Cabriolet Convertible


It has been announced that Mercedes will be releasing a convertible version of the A-Class. Although there is no date set for the release of the car, it will follow on from the release of both the three and five-door variants of the A-Class. With that in mind, expect to see the A-Class at some time next year.

It is hoped that the release of the A-Class convertible will enable Mercedes to beat off competition from its rivals to claim the number one spot in terms of sales for premium car manufacturers.

Mercedes CEO Dr Dieter Zetsche, speaking at the launch of the B-Class, announced that there would be five new compact cars in production in the near future. Joining the A-Class Cabriolet will be the B-Class, the A-Class hatchback, an SUV and a four-door coupe.

It is far too early for any performance statistics regarding the new A-Class convertible, but we do know that it will use a front-wheel-drive platform that improves handling and smoothness of drive with a multi-link rear suspension. The suspicion at the moment is that the convertible will be fitted with a lighter and more cost-effective fabric roof. In terms of look, it is expected to take inspiration from the Mercedes-Benz Concept A-Class as pictured above.

Mercedes fans should also be enthused by the news that there will also be a four-wheel-drive AMG in the A-Class range. Expected to be released in 2014, the AMG version will be equipped with a 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine capable of producing in the region of 350bhp. With the release of these cars in the next few years, it is sure to be an exciting time for Mercedes enthusiasts everywhere.

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Wednesday October 19th, 2011 20:08 BMW Prepares 3 Series for 2012 Release

BMW has revealed that its new 3 Series range will be displayed in public for the first time at the Detroit Motor Show in January. However, UK customers will have to wait another month before the cars actually go on sale.

The German car manufacturers are already claiming that its direct market rival to the Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class is a better drive. BMW also claims that it is not only more comfortable and spacious than its market rivals, but is also lighter.

In addition to petrol and diesel models, BMW are offering full hybrid and four-wheel-drive models for the first time.

The entry-level 316d ES will cost upwards of £24,880, while the 335i will cost customers £35,525.

All engines in the 3 series will be turbocharged, and this will make for some pretty impressive performance statistics. The 328i, powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine will go from 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds. The top of the range 335i, powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine, allowing it to run an impressive 302bhp. This power means that the 335i is capable of going from 0-62mph in just 5.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 155mph.

Drivers looking to buy something more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly should perhaps look toward the 320d Efficient Dynamics. Powered by a 161bhp, 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, it manages 68.9mpg while emitting just 109g/km of CO2. This emissions rate means that it will be tax-free in the first year.

BMW expects to have eight versions of the 3 series on sale by March 2012 that have emissions under 120g/km of CO2. The ActiveHybrid 3 will be released towards the end of 2012. For now though, BMW enthusiasts should look towards the Detroit Motor Show for a closer look at the new 3 Series.

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Saturday October 15th, 2011 10:56 Ferrari Prepare New GT for Geneva Motor Show Debut


The latest news coming from Maranello is that Ferrari will unveil its latest GT supercar at the Geneva Motor Show next March. Lighter and more powerful than ever before, the replacement for the 599 GTB Fiorano is expected to be one of the fastest models in Ferrari’s stable.

The two-seater supercar’s power will come from an updated version of the 6.3-litre V12 direct-injection engine that was used in the FF. With an immense 700bhp, the new GT will have 88bhp more than the current 599 GTB Fiorano and 50bhp more than the FF, making it the most powerful car in the range.

This power will help to propel the new GT to a projected top speed of 215mph and will allow the car to go from 0-62mph in just 3.2 seconds. This time puts it in a similar speed bracket as Lamborghini’s Aventador.

The new GT will also feature the FF’s seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, although unlike the FF, it will not feature four-wheel drive. Other improvements made to the car are the inclusion of adaptive dampers and a shorter wheelbase for its chassis.

Visually, the new Ferrari takes inspiration from the FF and the 458. There is a strip of LED running lights at the front, as well as a diffuser at the rear of the car. The rear window of the car has dramatic buttresses at either side.

It’s expected that the new Ferrari GT will go on sale in late 2012, and will cost buyers somewhere in the region of £225,000. Start saving those pennies, Ferrari enthusiasts.

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Monday September 26th, 2011 10:58 Campaign for Uniform Electric Vehicle Charging Gathers Speed

It looks very much like the standardisation of charging plugs for electric cars will become more commonplace throughout Europe in the next few years.

A proposal put forward by ACEA, the automobile manufacturers’ trade association, recommended that the same charging equipment should be used in all countries, regardless of the make of the car, electricity provider or country.

The move towards standardised charging is seen as an important step in helping electric vehicles gain a more viable share of the market. The lack of universal charging equipment is seen as a potential barrier to prospective buyers of electric cars.

The ACEA report looked at a number of factors involving the charging of electric cars, such as the public charging infrastructure as well as the vehicle inlets themselves. The report also looked at the issue of both fast and slow charging.

Ivan Hodac, Secretary General of ACEA, said: “This is a major step towards the broader introduction of electrically-chargeable vehicles in Europe and paves the way for a harmonised solution around the globe.”

“Standardisation provides predictability to investors; it enables economy of scale and reduces costs. We have also ensured a solution that meets the highest safety standards and is easy to use.”

The ACEA hopes that its recommendations will be accepted by the European Commission, as well as standardisation bodies and infrastructure providers across Europe, as quickly as possible. This approval will allow the vehicle manufacturers to start integrating the uniform technology into production cars. The ACEA have set a goal of 2017 for full implementation for new electric vehicles.

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Sunday September 25th, 2011 02:20 Government Grant Fails to Encourage Car Buyers to go Electric


New data from the Society of Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggests that sales of electric cars in the UK are progressing at a rate significantly lower than had been anticipated. To date, only 812 battery models have been bought in the UK in 2011. This is in spite of the incentive of a £5,000 government grant for each buyer of a fully electric or plug-in hybrid car.

Unsurprisingly, the most popular electric car is the Nissan Leaf, with 499 cars being sold. The figures from the SMMT are much bleaker for the other five electric car models currently available in the UK, with none of them managing to sell even a quarter of the Nissan Leaf’s figure.

At a cost of £230 million, the £5,000 subsidy for plug-in cars was initially conceived by the previous Labour government to try and cut the upfront cost of electric vehicles for buyers. Although cheaper to run than a conventional car, the upfront cost of an electric car is typically at least a third more.

The subsidy managed to survive the current coalition government’s swinging cuts, although its funding has only been guaranteed for the first year. With sales of electric cars at such a low rate, there is little chance that the £43 million set aside for this year – the equivalent of 8,600 cars being sold – will be reached.

The poor sales of electric cars in the UK stand in marked contrast to sales of new cars in general. SMMT’s figures show that registrations of new cars in August were up by over 7%.

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Saturday September 24th, 2011 18:14 Jaguar Land Rover Announce New Job-Creating Factory in West Midlands

There was some much needed good news for the UK car industry this week, as Jaguar Land Rover announced that they would be building an engine factory in Wolverhampton. The building of the factory will result in a total of 750 new jobs being created and will cost £355 million.

The engines that are to be manufactured at the new facility are expected to be all new, advanced technology, low-emission ones. With this in mind, you can expect to see V6 and V8 petrol engines built there, along with a V6 diesel unit.

Speaking at the announcement of the new factory, Jaguar Land Rover‘s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ralf Speth, said: “As part of our long-term strategy for the JLR business, we will design, engineer and manufacture a new family of advanced engines. This is a major commitment for our company and we will produce these advanced, highly-efficient engines for future Jaguar and Land Rover models at a new facility in the UK.”

He continued: “As we invest £1.5 billion a year for the next five years on new product developments, expanding our engine range will help us realise the full potential of the Jaguar and Land Rover brands. The all-new family of 4 cylinder engines will increase JLR’s capability to offer high performance engines with class-leading levels of refinement, whilst ensuring continued significant reductions in vehicle emissions.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stopped looking sad for a moment to express his enthusiasm for the new factory: “Jaguar Land Rover’s decision to build its new engine plant in Wolverhamption is fantastic news. It means over 700 new jobs for local people, an investment of over £300 million in the West Midlands and recognition of the expertise in the British workforce and manufacturing sector.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable described the news as a “tremendous boost for manufacturing in the UK and the West Midlands in particular.”

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