Motor show returns to London
09 May 2016
The 2016 London Motor Show has had a tricky gestation period since it was announced 18 months ago, but it became a reality in early May as, supported mainly by dealer groups rather than major manufacturers, a range of new models made their first appearances in the UK.
The biggest news, and a European unveiling, was the new MG GS crossover, the third model to come to the line-up of the resurrected Chinese-owned brand (see panel). But on top of that was a combination of the latest models from a series of fleet-orientated brands, mixed in with plenty of glamour as the luxury and sports car brands were well-represented too.
The big UK debuts included the Ford Edge, facelifted Tesla Model S, Range Rover Evoque Convertible, plug-in BMW X5 and 2-series Active Tourer and the Infiniti Q30 and Q60 models.
Also represented by its dealer groups were the Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Jeep brands, Volvo, Mazda, Vauxhall, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen, while there was plenty of petrolhead glamour provided by Rolls-Royce, McLaren, Bentley, Aston Martin, Caterham, a relaunching TVR and Morgan.
New crossover a 'game-changer' for MG
MG's new crossover model, a Nissan Qashqai rival joining the supermini 3 and lower medium 6 models, will be a "game-changer" for the brand and will "surprise people with how good it is to drive and how much specification you get for the money", according to the company's head of sales and marketing Matthew Cheyne.
"For us, this is a really big step, we had a steady start with the 6, the 3 was very well-received in retail and GS raises our profile even more," he told BusinessCar. "The important thing is that this is a very exciting sector of the market and this vehicle will appeal to a lot of people."
Though pricing and specification won't be revealed until the car's official launch date of 14 June, at which point cars will be in dealers, Cheyne said the company will follow the same formula as its other models. "We'll offer good specification in a good car," he commented. "We have benchmarked against the leading competitors and it holds its head up with all of them."
The Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5 were pinpointed as key rivals, though the GS will undercut them all on price. "We want to be affordable and no gimmicks of pricing high and selling cheap," he continued "There will be a simple model line-up and good spec; it will be less than the competition taking into account that the competition price high and discount."
Though specifications haven't been confirmed, the car on the motor show stand was fitted with leather interior, automatic lights, climate control, roof rails and heated seats.
The firm has confirmed a 1.5-litre petrol engine, presumed to be the 105hp unit used in the MG 3, and the highest of the three trim levels will be available with an automatic gearbox. CO2 emissions are yet to be confirmed, and a diesel engine isn't imminent. "Diesel depends on volume and where the diesel debate goes, it's starting to raise its head with the demonising of diesel," Cheyne said. "It's more about what is right for the market rather than ticking a box."
Though Cheyne admits to being comfortable with MG's status as a predominantly retail brand, the company has recently appointed a new fleet boss in the form of Ben Morris, who previously worked for Nexus Vehicle Management (see news, pchk), and is looking for an increase in company car interactions. "I would like our core business to be profitable business through the dealer network, however if we can do some business through contract hire then we will look at it," he said. "Morris can raise our profile through leasing industry and parts of rental that are not about big discounts where we can build relationships."
MG is also about to launch a local business initiative and driver instructor programme, which it will manage centrally to avoid putting the burden onto dealers to have a specialist fleet body in each site. MG will, according to its head of sales and marketing "give dealers the ability to go out to local small fleets with a competitive lease or contract hire rate, and we'll talk to slightly larger companies outright, negotiate the contract and deliver through the dealer network".
"We can't compete on the likes of daily rental, but we haven't tapped into the sector of the market that doesn't get terms from manufacturers and we want to," Cheyne concluded.
Hydrogen pilot scheme could lead to zero-emission light commercial
The Riversimple consortium used the London show to reveal a sketch for a hydrogen-powered light commercial vehicle, though it will be into the next decade before any progress is made on a production version. The company is currently working on setting up a 20-vehicle trial in South Wales for its Rasa two-seat hydrogen model which will also include part-funding a fuelling station in the area.
The company is currently crowdfunding to try and match the ?2m (£1.6m) EU grant it has been awarded to fund the trial, which the firm hopes will be off the ground by the end of next year, with cars commercial available in 2018.
Depending on the success of that trial and the funding being in place, a four-seat car and the light commercial vehicle, both as-yet unnamed, would then enter development
Focus sharpens on crash-prevention systems
Automotive companies and organisations Thatcham Research, Bosch, Continental and ZF TRW joined together as part of the glocbal NCAP #stopthecrash campaign to offer live demonstrations of Autonomous Emergency Braking systems in order to educate car buyers as to their effectiveness.
The companies want to encourage all car buyers to be asking three questions before taking on a new vehicle:
- What Euro NCAP test rating does this car have?
- Is Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) fitted to this car - and is it standard?
- What else should I do to maximise the safety protection offered by this car?
Euro NCAP last year released a report claiming AEB is responsible for a 38% reduction in rear-end crashes, but the system is only fitted as standard to 17% of new cars.
"Autonomous Emergency Braking as standard should be the number one priority for anyone choosing a new car," said David Ward, secretary-general of the Global New Car Assessment Programme. "The technology is already available in one form or another from almost every car manufacturer and in the absence of legislation to make it mandatory, we are encouraging consumers to use their power of choice to ensure that every new car coming onto the road has this life-saving feature fitted."