Turnaround for the US Big Three?

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner can breathe a sigh of relief, at one time it looked as if GM, Ford and Chrysler might all go into bankruptcy so great were their losses in 2004 and 2005 and so slow their sales but for GM clearly 2006 was a turnaround year.

Waggoner said recently “GM’s America turnaround plan moved faster and further than we all expected a year ago. 2006 needed to be a huge year for us – and it was.”

GM reduced its running costs by more than $9 billion in North America in 2005/6 and U.S. retail sales of 3 million units.


UK inflation rate at 11-year high last month

ONS data released last week has shown UK inflation hit 3% last month, the highest rate since comparable records began a decade ago. The increase had been forecast following the recent rise in UK interest rates to 5.25% - clearly the Bank of England had advance warning of the news and factored it into their rate setting decision - analysts say there is now strong chance of a further interest rate rise, probably of ¼%. How much this impacts on car sales will be seen later in the year but some effect is inevitable.


Jaguar XJ Voted "Luxury Car of the Year" in the 2006 BusinessCar Awards

The Jaguar XJ has been named ‘Luxury Car of the Year’ for the second consecutive year at the BusinessCar Awards 2006. Voted solely by BusinessCar readers, the Jaguar XJ was first choice over competition from BMW, Audi and Lexus.

Geoff Cousins, Managing Director of Jaguar in the UK said: “We are delighted to win this award for the second year running, particularly as it was voted for exclusively by BusinessCar readers. This recognition reinforces the growing sales success of XJ in the UK market demonstrated by a 23% increase in 2006, compared with 2005. With the introduction of the diesel engine in 2005, the XJ has become a much more competitive vehicle in both the fleet and retail market.”

Jaguar XJ

Tristan Young, Editor-in-Chief at BusinessCar said: “Despite the launch of a new Mercedes S-Class in the past year, Jaguar’s XJ still took the honours in this class. There may not be many cars that qualify under the ‘luxury car’ heading, but that doesn’t mean the competition isn’t tough. In fact, at this level competition is arguably tougher than many other segments. For luxury car buyers things have to be just about perfect and the XJ has been voted most perfect.”

Other notable awards for the Jaguar XJ include ‘Best Luxury Car’ at the 2006 Fleet World Honours, ‘Diesel Car of the Year’ at the Scottish Car of the Year Awards 2005 and ‘Best Large Executive Car’ at the Auto Express Used Car Honours for 2006.



New Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2007

The Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2007 was launched this week and will be available in bookshops from Friday 26 January priced at £15.99.

This year’s Guide has 122 establishments with stars – more than ever before.  Among the new entries are 13 new one-star restaurants covering areas from the Channel Islands to Scotland, and two new two-star restaurants: The Vineyard at Stockcross near Newbury and Pétrus in Belgravia, London. There are also more Rising Stars this year with eight establishments tipped as one star restaurants of the future and one tipped for two stars.

Readers searching for value for money need look no further than a restaurant with a Bib Gourmand symbol. These offer good food at moderate prices, which equates to three courses for less than £28 (40 euros in the Republic of Ireland). There are 17 new Bib Gourmand entries in the Guide, in England, Wales and Ireland. 

The format of the Guide means that it offers readers an unrivalled selection of hotels and restaurants to suit all pockets, in a compact sized book.  The 2007 Guide has 4, 839 entries, and of those, 3, 052 are hotels and guesthouses and 1, 787 are restaurants and pubs; all regularly inspected by Michelin’s own team of professional inspectors.



Citroën’s triple world rally champion Sébastien Loeb led home team-mate Dani Sordo for a storming Citroën one-two finish in the first round of the 2007 World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo. The victory signalled Citroën Sport’s return to the Championship and the debut of Citroën's C4 WRC.

The exceptionally fast stages of the opening leg were run entirely in darkness and to confirm the speed of the new C4 WRC, Loeb posted the two fastest times in wet conditions, to the delight of the Citroën Sport team.

Citroen WRC

Loeb, who has only recently recovered from a broken arm, led from the start to secure a record 29th rally triumph and fourth Monte Carlo success alongside co-driver Daniel Elena. A delighted Sébastien Loeb commented: “It’s nice to have won in Monte Carlo for a fourth time and we couldn’t have dreamed for a better start to the season. To have finished 1st and 2nd will be a huge morale-booster for the team. We’ve risen successfully to the challenge on asphalt, now fresh challenges await us on snow and dirt.”

Sébastien Loeb’s win takes him level with rally legends Sandro Munari, Walter Röhrl and Tommi Mäkinen who are the only other drivers to have won the Monte Carlo rally four times.

Final Results for the Monte Carlo Rally

1. S. Loeb/D. Elena (Citroën C4)   3 h 15 min 27.4 s

2. D. Sordo/M.Martí (Citroën C4)   + 38.2 s

3. M. Grönholm/T. Rautiainen (Ford Focus)  + 1 min 22.8 s

4. C. Atkinson/G. NcNeall (Subaru Impreza)   + 2 min 28, 1 s

5. M. Hirvonen/J. Lehtinen (Ford Focus)  + 2 min 28, 3 s


See also our WRC Pages


100 years of motor sport to be celebrated as Brooklands Centenary Festival plans are announced

Brooklands, the first purpose built motor racing circuit in the world, has announced plans to celebrate its centenary this June. The venue, in Weybridge, Surrey will host a wide range of exciting events over the weekend of 15-17 June 2007, exactly 100 years since it first opened.

All weekend the Festival atmosphere will be everywhere, with a fun fair, street entertainers and plenty of refreshments, whilst period costume and myriad vehicles and reminders of the golden age of motor racing will be on display.

Friday evening sees a Grand Centenary Ball at Mercedes-Benz World, and on Saturday the Brooklands Museum hosts an unrivalled display of vintage and veteran cars from clubs and private owners.  Saturday evening sees an Edwardian-themed party in the Brooklands Clubhouse.

Sunday - the actual anniversary day - is the highpoint of the weekend.  A recreation of the original Grand Opening Parade will be held on what's left of the three and a half mile track.  Cars will travel along the Finishing Straight, and onto the famous banked circuit.  On the first race day in 1907, Mercedes and Benz cars finished first and second to win the inaugural Montagu Cup.

In its heyday from the 1900s to the 1930s, Brooklands' slogan used to be "The right crowd and no crowding". As all 190 acres of the site will be used there will be space for everyone - plus plenty of parking.  As well as commemorating the revolutionary circuit, which paved the way for motor sport becoming more accessible to spectators and competitors alike, the aeronautical history of Brooklands will also be evident.

As Mercedes' legendary Silver Arrows Grands Prix cars demonstrate their awesome power on track, historic aeroplanes will fly overhead, capturing the glamour and spirit of the original Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit.

Brooklands Museum still features many of the original buildings, the 1-in-4 Test Hill and the steepest part of the Members' Banking, re-opened to the public in 1991.  The Museum now chronicles the achievements of the pioneering men and women who advanced technology on the ground and in the air, and has a superb and ever-growing collection of vehicles and aircraft and memorabilia as well as modern Formula One race cars, the Raleigh Cycle Collection and historic motorcycles.

As Brooklands enjoys its rejuvenation and gets set for its second century, one weekend in June will be the perfect way to rejoice and remember what went before, what made it the home of motor sport, and to welcome the next generation of enthusiasts to the remarkable site.


The new MINI range boosted by introduction of the frugal, but fun MINI One and first ever MINI Cooper D

The new MINI hatch line-up will soon be complete, when the new MINI One and MINI Cooper D models are unveiled to the public at the International Geneva Motor Show on 8 March 2007. The entry-level One features a perky 95hp 1.4-litre petrol engine, while the Cooper D boasts performance and fuel efficiency from an all-new 1.6-litre 110hp turbodiesel powerplant.

Mini One D

A Cooper-badged MINI diesel hints at the sporty nature of the new model. MINI fans will be equally excited at the prospect of the Cooper D promising to be the most fuel-efficient and cleanest MINI ever built. In comparison to the outgoing MINI One D’s combined fuel consumption of 58.9mpg, the Cooper D is capable of 64.2mpg.  A CO2 figure of just 118 g/km puts the car in tax band B. MINI One also benefits from a significant improvement in both fuel consumption and emissions over the outgoing model.  49.6mpg is achievable from the One’s new 1.4-litre unit, compared to 41.5mpg from its predecessor. CO2 emissions are now 138g/km, against 164g/km produced by the previous model.

The MINI One will cost £11, 595 on the road, and the MINI Cooper D will be £14, 190. Both models will be on sale from April 2007.




Saab achieved a global sales record of 133, 167 cars in 2006, driven by strong European demand Saab Great Britain took it’s biggest-ever share of the UK market.

The Swedish car maker – the jewel in GM’s premium car crown – grew worldwide sales by 5.4 per cent compared to 2005 with it’s best-ever sales volume in Europe.

Some of this growth can be attributed to the enormous success of the Saab 9-5 BioPower flex-fuel car, which has taken the Swedish market by storm since its launch in mid-2005. Saab sold almost 11, 000 9-5 BioPowers during 2006 in Sweden, meaning that almost one in three environmentally-friendly car sales in that market was a Saab BioPower.

Saab BioPower

In the UK, which is Saab’s single largest market outside of the US, the Swedish brand took its highest-ever share of the new car market, at 1.15 per cent. British customers confirmed their penchant for soft-top motoring as well during the year, buying more Saab 9-3 Convertibles in 2006 than in any other year since UK sales began in 1960.

Commenting on the news, Jonathan Nash, Managing Director of Saab Great Britain, remarked: “2006 has been a fantastic year for Saab in more ways than one. The unveiling of the Aero X concept car back in March reinforced Saab’s position at the forefront of avant-garde and cutting-edge car design. Shortly after then, Saab hit the headlines with the first deliveries of the 9-5 BioPower, which is the world’s first turbocharged car able to run on bioethanol, proving that responsible motoring can be exciting. The fact that Saab has enjoyed double-digit retail growth in a year when the rest of the UK market struggled is the icing on the cake for us.”


Rolls Royce sales climb

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is celebrating its third successive annual sales increase since 2003, confirming the Phantom as the world’s leading super luxury car. Last year the company retailed 805 cars, a 16-year high for the marque.

Speaking at the unveiling of the new Phantom Drophead Coupé at the Detroit Motor Show, Rolls-Royce Chairman and Chief Executive, Ian Robertson, said, “At a time when the global automotive industry is facing many challenges, I am pleased to report another increase in sales for Rolls-Royce. It marks our third year of growth and points to a sustainable future for the company that will see expanded operations at Goodwood and the Phantom joined by further new models.”

Rolls Royce Drophead Coupe

The USA remains the biggest single market for Rolls-Royce with the UK in second place. China became the third largest single market in 2006, growing by more than 60 per cent. Rolls-Royce exported cars to more than 50 countries around the world in 2006 including Angola, Dominican Republic, Guadalupe, Nigeria and Turkey. However, the larger, established markets still account for the majority of sales.

The top five dealers worldwide in 2006 were, respectively, Beverly Hills and Tokyo sharing the top spot, London, Dubai and New York.



A new survey reveals that 86% of motorists admit to breaking motoring laws that could ban them from driving. It is only by luck they don't get caught – the new research reveals drivers’ luck is about to run out with record motorist disqualifications predicted for 2007.

According to the Home Office 13.5 million motorists – about 45% of all drivers!!!!! - had points put on their licence in the last year of complete driver statistics; the highest ever recorded. In the same year 221, 400 drivers were banned from driving. A new survey reveals that whilst 86% of motorists admit to occasionally breaking motoring laws that would add points and could result in a ban, most drivers stressed their actions as a genuine mistake or oversight, claiming it was never their intention to break the law.

The most common offence admitted was for speeding, followed by failing to comply with a traffic sign, driving through a red light and using a mobile phone while driving. Other offences included illegal parking and crossing a double white line in the middle of the road – some motorists admitted to drinking while driving.

Mark Cornwall of Car Parts Direct who carried out the survey said, “There are already over a hundred offences that can add points to a motorist’s driving licence. It will be near impossible for motorists to avoid picking up points, or worst still a ban in 2007.”

Mark Cornwall claims improved speed camera technology will have the largest impact for motorists, followed by the new mobile phone law. Under new legislation motorists will for the first time have points added to their licence as well as an increased £60 fine. More than 100, 000 motorists received just a £30 fine for using their mobile phones while driving during 2006.


Ford Focus tops Annual Sales Figures for Eighth Year Running

UK cars sales fell by almost 4% during 2006, but this is in line with industry forecasts says SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan: '2006 was by no means an easy year for the motor industry and the fall in new car registrations comes as no surprise. Uncertainty, fuelled by factors like interest rate rises, political instability and fuel price fluctuations conspired to make the market place a difficult one, ' said.

'Although we can expect another tough 12 months ahead, that is not to say that it is all doom and gloom - 2007 promises a host of new models along with the potential for attractive showroom offers to tempt the buyer.'


Top 10 Best Selling Cars of 2006



Ford Focus

137, 694


Vauxhall Astra

105, 296


Ford Fiesta

103, 856


Vauxhall Corsa

73, 923


Renault Mégane

62, 069


VW Golf

62, 011


Renault Clio

57, 192


BMW 3 Series

50, 248


Ford Mondeo

48, 021


Vauxhall Zafira

47, 527


Despite the downward trend, Diesel car sales for 2006 increased by 0.1%, reaching record volume and market share.

Top 10 Best Selling Diesel Cars of 2006



Ford Focus

48, 929


VW Passat

35, 490


Ford Mondeo

35, 127


VW Golf

32, 613


Vauxhall Astra

27, 744


BMW 3 Series

27, 595


Audi A4

23, 550


Vauxhall Vectra

23, 206


Renault Mégane

22, 788


Peugeot 307

19, 491


Second-hand Cars top the complaints charts

Consumer Direct, the government’s telephone and online advice service, received more complaints about second hand cars bought from independent dealers than for any other specific goods or services in 2006.

The figures released today show that Consumer Direct logged 37, 594 cases about second hand vehicles bought from independent dealers, 3.9 per cent of the total 963, 684 cases recorded in 2006.

By sorting the 453 specific complaint codes into 66 general complaint categories, the top three complaint areas were home maintenance and improvements accounting for 7.7 per cent of cases, second hand cars at 6.6 per cent and telecommunications at 5.8 per cent.

In total, Consumer Direct took just over 1.5 million telephone calls and emails from consumers in 2006, up 79 per cent against the previous year.

Top Ten Complaints about specific goods and services in 2006


Second hand cars
purchased from independent dealers


Mobile Phones (service agreements)




Other general building work


Mobile Phones (hardware)


Personal Goods and Services (Other)


Car repairs and servicing from independent garages


Upholstered furniture


Fitted Kitchens


Second hand cars purchased from franchise dealers




Toyota FT-HS Concept

Pairing a potent hybrid powertrain with essential sports car fundamentals, the FT-HS concept was a joint undertaking of CALTY, Toyota’s North American-based, research and design centre located in Newport Beach, California, and Toyota’s California-based Advanced Product Strategy Group.  The design team was assigned the task of creating a mid-priced sports car that integrates ecology and emotion in a concept that addresses the question, “What is a suitable sports car for the 21st Century?”.

“Drivers today are not satisfied with cars that are simply fast, ” said Kevin Hunter, vice president, CALTY Design Research“In addition to driving enjoyment, today’s drivers are concerned about safety, ecology and social responsibility.”

Toyota FT-HS Concept

The FT-HS incorporates hybrid capability while maintaining sports car essentials, such as a sleek profile, lightweight aerodynamic materials, and an advanced high-output powertrain for revolutionary acceleration and optimal performance.  This 21st century sports car is fun-to-drive with eco-friendly benefits such as ultra-low emissions and fuel efficiency.  The FT-HS appeals to an emerging buyer who grew up eco-conscious and perceives technology as a necessity, not a luxury.

Toyota FT-HS Concept

This two-plus-two concept is a front-engine, rear-drive sports car with a projected 0-62mph acceleration in the four-second range.  A powerful V6, 3.5L-engine is coupled with a 21st century sports hybrid system with a target power output of approximately 400-horsepower.  At a mid-priced market position, FT-HS would be a true “attainable exotic” with 21st Century performance.



New Corsa VXR on sale mid-March

Lightweight turbo 1.6-litre engine producing 192PS and more than 260Nm

Top speed of 140mph and 0-60 in 6.8 seconds

The new Corsa has already caused quite a sensation with its bold styling and impressive road manners, but now Vauxhall has pulled the wraps off the ultimate version – the long awaited VXR.






"Great Jaguars turn heads in the street. They make people stop and pay attention. They evoke instant desire. That’s what the C-XF does and that’s what the next generation of Jaguars will do.”
Ian Callum, Director of Design, Jaguar Cars

The C-XF concept car signals the onset of a new era for Jaguar. A stunning, four-door sports saloon which blends design purity with unmistakable dynamism, the C-XF is a clear indication of the design direction that the next generations of Jaguar saloons will take.

Designed by the same teams that produced the award-winning Jaguar XK sports GT range in 2005 – headed by Jaguar Director of Design Ian Callum and Head of Advanced Design Julian Thomson – the C-XF concept is a precursor to cars that will become recognised for their ground-breaking exterior looks and innovative interiors.

As a striking interpretation of the design values that are the bedrock of every great Jaguar, the C-XF is wholly contemporary yet succeeds in paying homage to its renowned predecessors.

“The C-XF – and the future generations of sports saloons it signals – reaffirms the direction Jaguar is taking, ” says Bibiana Boerio, Managing Director of Jaguar Cars. “When we launched the new XK sports car series, we talked about a product-led transformation of the company. We promised that new Jaguars would be beautiful, fast, glamorous and evocative. The new XK delivered on that promise and the C-XF proves that these same values and more are coming in Jaguar saloon cars.”



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