jump to navigation

Speaking live on City Radio FM March 15, 2009

Posted by Richard Aucock in What I learned today.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Today, I was a guest speaker on City Talk Liverpool radio. The presenter, Rob McLoughlin, had Eddie O’Hara MP in the studio, and brought me in for some journalistic insight.

They’d got my name from reading the news pieces I’ve been writing for Car Dealer Magazine. All this fuss kicked off on Wednesday, you see, after the BERR assembled car industry chiefs, Ministers, bank folk and other senior people. For a heads-up on how to get the industry into gear.

Like the industry, the meeting stalled. The RMIF emerged and screamed that it had ‘failed’. Mandelson came out and said the Treasury and, in particular, the Bank of England were dragging their feet. The Bank of England responded by biting its tongue, kicking the cat, then saying it was ‘puzzled’ by Mandelson’s comments.

Even the BoE press release seemed fit to explode… I can only imagine what the language flowing through the meeting was.

speaking-live-on-city-radio-fmHence, McLoughlin’s interest. First, he grilled O’Hara, on what the Government was going to do. ‘It’s going to cost you votes!’, he said. This is going to cost me nerve endings, I thought.

After a short while, it was over to me. ‘Which plants are at risk in the UK?’ Heavens above. No time to respond though, as McLoughlin quickly added the Liverpool-specific line. ‘What about Ellesmere Port and Halewood?’ In all honesty, I ventured, things are more positive for them than most. Both have secured a green future model, in the Ampera and LRX. This alone opens up a big chunk of green Government cash. Back to O’Hara. Phew.

The debate continued, and we discussed the future model, the sheer oddness of Mandelson’s comments, what can be done to revive the market and, broadly, my insight on the industry’s view of things.

Pleasingly, it went well. Haven’t done much radio chat, but I quite got into it by the end.

But, for a bit of insight, what happens to guys like me on the line? Well, they call you up a few minutes before, then you hear a live feed to the broadcast station. There’s no warning that you’re ‘live’, so you simply start chatting when you’re name’s called. Listen to talk shows from now on – all those mentions of the guests’ names is vital, to elicit both concentration, and a response!

At the end, the feed cut, it was a quick thank you from the producer, a swap of mobile numbers, and back to reality. My summary? As I reviewed in the news at the end of the week – Land Rover’s green future is positive, and the key to it getting a shot right now is confidence.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve played a small part in boosting that. If not, the call from Land Rover will be first in tomorrow…

Land Rover MINI has big future March 15, 2009

Posted by Richard Aucock in What I learned today.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Land Rover is going to do a MINI with the new baby Range Rover. Due in 2011, it won’t just offer fuel economy comparable with a Ford Focus.

It will also, once again, see the brand changing with the times.

They started out as farmer’s hacks, Land Rovers. Posh farmers led to the Range Rover, but as farmers farmed out their fields for posh houses, so the models themselves became more Sloane Ranger. Growing in size, stature, and price.

A hole at the cheap end of the range developed, so the Discovery came in. then, a whole new sector was created, with the Freelander. The Land Rover for those to whom farming meant Saturday market.

Now, big is bad. Pricey is bad. The market has shuddered, and Land Rover’s core has with it. If Land Rover is to not only survive, but have relevance, it needs to change.

land-rover-mini-has-big-futureWith the LRX Range Rover, it’s doing just that. Big? Thirsty? Brash? Less popular than a foxhunt on Playgroup day? Not a bit of it.

It’s the anti-SUV, a Range Rover for those with an eye on the future.

But who want iPod, not just generic MP3 player.

I reckon it’s likely to be a winner (Land Rover has a knack of this: see, well, every new model it’s ever launched). Not only does the production-intent concept look great, it’s crucially about the size of a Focus. Perfect. Even the very first diesel on sale in late 2010 will do 50mpg.

In time, there’ll be a 60mpg hybrid version, with sub-120g/km CO2 emissions. Comparable with a VW Golf Bluemotion, then.

It won’t be cheap, of course (not least because £400 million is being in vested in it – on top of Land Rover’s £800 million green investment. It’s too clever to not be: don’t expect many variants for under £30k. But, as it’s going to be the must-have car of 18 month’s time, that’s not going to be an issue.

Land Rover started off small, and only became big with time. To ensure it stays big, it needs to go small again. Come 2011, this model will have a big part to play in achieving that.

Clever cars? We ‘aint seen nothing yet March 9, 2009

Posted by Richard Aucock in What I've mused upon today.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Land Rover, Orange and the Ordnance Survey aren’t known for being particularly complementary bedfellows.

But, with the TRL smoothing the waters, they’ve come up with something that’ll make yet another potential big difference to car CO2 emissions. The Sentience test bed.

This is the Clever Car. It uses smart sat nav to plot a route, see what traffic conditions are ahead, moderating engine accordingly. Clever, aye? You’re suspicious. Well, (for now) fear not. This is not (intended to be) ‘dumb waiter’ style speed restriction.

clever-cars-we-aint-seen-nothing-yetRather, it is the car using adaptive cruise control to idealise the acceleration and deceleration – as per traffic up ahead, the necessary speed gain needed to scoot between point and – get this – counter the gradient of the road in the most eco way possible.

Like the driver who looks ahead, and adjusts the throttle accordingly, rather than the less clever ‘point ‘n squirt. Oh, and then brake’ merchant.

Orange provides the ‘net-enabled telecommunications, but it’s OS’s mapping data, detailing gradient, bens in the road, roundabouts, even speed bumps, that really gives it intelligence.

An example. Green drivers know that accelerating at the bottom of the hill creates momentum for ascending it. So, uses less fuel. This is what the Sentience car does. Ingenious. And generating claimed fuel savings of nearly a quarter.

What’s more, with real-time navigation systems, it can alter profiles according to traffic flow as well as road conditions up ahead. It can even vary and restrict speed, according to the probability of something slowing the car at a junction up ahead, and meter speed for best flow through traffic lights.

There’s been a lady from Brake today, banging on across all the news channels that speed kills. Yes, speed. Not a single other factor, just speed. Make everyone drive at the speed limit and accidents will be cut to zero.

What utter guff. Luckily, companies such as this quartet are being a damn sight more intelligent, and developing mobile comm cars that will both save the world and a few lives in the process.

Their only problem is, the degree of autonomy they’re calling upon drivers to hand over. With the Brake woman in mind, that’s maybe a debate for another day…