14 October 2019

New Golf debuts next week

Volkswagen is to have the world premiere of its new Golf next week, on 24 October, writes Brian Byrne.

It will be the eighth generation of what is now the modern icon of the company’s range.

So far only teased with the illustration above, the new car will be on a revised version of the company’s MQB platform, and will feature mild hybrid technology.

No major changes to the car’s long-serving style cues are anticipated when it is revealed in the metal at VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters.

A strong focus on connectivity, driver assistance and safety technology, and enhanced driving dynamics will feature on the new Golf.

There will be GTI and R versions as the car is rolled out in various global markets. Both are expected to receive substantial power boosts.

SEAT Ireland teams with 3 Arena

A two-year partnership between SEAT Ireland and 3 Arena will enable the motor company to showcase its models range within the venue, writes Brian Byrne.

The arena is the fourth largest custom built music venue in Europe, with some 850,000 people attending events there each year.

Neil Dalton, head of marketing at SEAT Ireland, says the partnership will offer an excellent platform to tell the SEAT story.

Among the global artistes booked for the 3 Arena over the next year or so are Cher, Rod Stewart, Hozier, Lewis Capaldi and Elton John.

12 October 2019

Suzuki Swift gets an ‘Attitude’

Suzuki Swift Attitude

Suzuki’s Swift supermini had always been much loved by Irish motorists for its stylish good looks and for its drivability, writes Trish Whelan. 

Swift is the car most people associate with Suzuki as it best demonstrates their design and engineering capabilities. It is getting close to reaching sales of seven million units globally.

Now, a new version called Attitude has been added to the Swift line-up of SZ3, SZ-T, SZ5 and Sport.

At the car’s launch on Thursday at The Johnstown Estate near Enfield in Co Meath, Ed Norman, Product Manager of Suzuki U, said this is a key model in the Swift line-up for 2019 which will draw customers who may not be able to afford €23,245 for a Swift Sport but who want a sporty looking car that is less expensive to buy. Attitude prices start from €17,245. 

While the car’s exterior sporty looks compare favourably to those of the Swift Sport- which is armed with a 1.4 Boosterjet trubo engine outputting 140hp and 230 Nm of torque - it is not a sporty version as it uses a 1.2 Dualjet 4-cylinder petrol engine outputting 90hp. Combined fuel consumption is 5.5 L/100kms (51.4mpg), top speed is 180km/h, 0-100km/h is 11.9 secs. Annual road tax is €190. Luggage capacity is 265L expandable to 579L. 

We got to enjoy a short drive in the car on good local roads at launch, but in quite miserably wet conditions.

In looks, Attitude gets a unique exterior design including a mesh grille, polished 16-inch alloys, front/side/rear carbon effect skirts and a rear upper spoiler. 

Competitors include similar versions of the SEAT Ibiza, Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai i20. 

Suzuki plan to sell 200 units in a full year. The car is built at Sagara in Japan. 

Giving an update on the brand for 2019, Ed Norman said things are ‘a lot more positive’ in the Irish market for the brand now. “We have had a very small decline in volume this year, but it represents volume stability in a market down by -7 per cent. Since 2015, we have been steadily growing and this year are down by just -2 per cent which is very small by comparison.” He said Suzuki sales are now back to the 1.1 per cent level they were at before the recession of 2008 and that this is a profitable level for them to stay in Ireland.

This achievement is due to their core models of Swift, Ignis and Vitara competing in the important A, B & SUV segments and all experiencing growth in sales. Sales of S-Cross have been hampered by supply issues, but these have now been resolved. However, both Celerio and Baleno models have seen big drops in sales and are no longer being produced. 

Suzuki enjoys the highest ratio of private customer sales among the top 20 brands with only Porsche ahead and do not sell to the hire drive market unlike most competitors.

Looking to the future, Mr Norman said they plan to have a self-charging, mild hybrid system as an option in all their manual transmission models. This system provides up to a 10 per cent efficiency benefit versus an equivalent non-hybrid version system. 

Suzuki currently has 22 dealers in Ireland, down from 30 pre recession, and are looking for dealers to join the network in some areas of the country so as to bring that total to around 24. Downeys in Portlaoise and Drogheda Car Sales are the two most recent dealerships to join the Suzuki sales network.    

11 October 2019

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ 2020 offers

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles range
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ 201’ offers include 0pc HP on specific models across the range along with an upgrade bonus of up to €4,000, writes Trish Whelan. 

The brand also has its own lease product where customers can pay a monthly lease with no deposit, starting from €248 per month.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is the only Irish manufacturer to offer a commercial PCP solution which will guarantee the residual value of a vehicle after 36 months of use. Service and maintenance are also available from €18.99 per month with their newly launched service plans. 

The brand enters 2020 with a target of further growth following a record year in 2019. The Caddy is Ireland’s best-selling Commercial Vehicle. Crafter and Amarok are the fastest-growing models within their segments in Ireland. Transporter is set for growth again in 2020 with the launch of the new Transporter T6.1. This new Transporter is the brand’s icon developed and further improved.

Commenting on the brand’s plans for 2020, Alan Bateson, Managing Director at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Ireland, said: “2019 has been a record year for the brand in Ireland and we are targeting to do even further in 2020. Our brand is renowned for offering the best commercial vehicle solutions and after-sales service to customers in Ireland. The new models, services and offers we have launched ensures we will continue this.”

Mr Bateson added that VW Commercial Vehicles ‘are focused on continuously delivering to customers what they want’.

“We offer complete customer solutions through our exclusive retail network and trained brand managers to ensure we deliver, and exceed, our customer’s requirements every day. Simple ideas such as 24-to-48 hour test drives and the offer that we will come to the customer if they are too busy to come to us.”

9 October 2019

SEAT achieves highest sales figures in 19 years

The SEAT SUV range,

SEAT Ireland’s latest sales result show it to be one of the fastest growing car brands in Ireland, writes Trish Whelan.

SEAT Ireland has announced ‘phenomenal sales results’ for the month of September with over 4,000 units sold year-to-date, which is up 10.5 per cent compared to this time last year and the highest achievement for the brand in Ireland in 19 years. 

September sales have resulted in a record market share for SEAT of 3.5 per cent year-to-date.

The SEAT Arona (winner of Irish Small Crossover of the Year 2019) accounts for over 27 per cent of the brand’s sales so far this year. The Ateca and new Tarraco 7-seater SUV are also strong contenders in this segment. Their SUV range accounts for 60 per cent of SEAT’s sales year-to-date. 

SEAT’s success can also be attributed towards its expanding dealer network and the roll out of new state-of-the-art showroom branding across its full dealer network.

Niall Phillips, Brand Director at SEAT Ireland says: “We look forward to seeing what the remainder of the year holds for SEAT and are excited to enter 2020 on such a positive note.”

Buying a UK import? Check the tyres!

A survey carried out by German tyre manufacturer Continental of some 100 UK-registered vehicles on car dealer forecourts in Dublin showed that more than 75 per cent of them were fitted with budget tyres, in particular, cheap Chinese brands, writes Trish Whelan.

For Road Safety Week (taking place this week from October 7-11), Continental Tyres is also urging Irish motorists to get into the tyre safety habit of regular checks. 

According to Tom Dennigan of Continental Tyres Ireland (pictured): “Lower cost is what is driving the growing number of second-hand imports into Ireland and it is clear that, in an effort to keep the price as low as possible, the majority of car dealers are opting to fit the cheapest tyres on these vehicles.”

He said independent tests by safety authorities in several countries have shown that so-called budget tyres do not have anything like the same performance and safety attributes as premium tyres. “This is particularly true when it comes to stopping in the wet, a key requirement when driving in Ireland. Those independent tests have shown that a car fitted with budget tyres performing an emergency stop in the wet, can take an extra 15 metres or four lengths to stop than a car fitted with a premium tyre brand.”

Mr Dennigan warned: “That 15 metres could be the difference between avoiding a collision or not.”

Tyres are a vehicle’s only contact with the road and Road Safety Authority studies have consistently shown what an important influence they can have on the roadworthiness and the safety of a vehicle.

“So even though it might seem the price is right with that second-hand UK vehicle, you may be paying a much higher price in the long run,” concluded Dennigan. 

8 October 2019

SIMI: Budget 2020 gives Motor Industry breathing space

Brian Cooke, SIMI

Budget 2020, announced this afternoon by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, contains a number of measures specific to motoring, writes Trish Whelan.

SIMI's Director General Brian Cooke has responded to matters relating to the Motor Industry.

In his Budget speech, Minister Donohoe said:

*No changes to C02 element of VRT. VRT will continue to be based on NEDC for 2020.
*Replacement of 1 per cent diesel surcharge with a nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions based charge. This surcharge will apply to all passenger cars registered for the first time in the State from 1 January 2020.
*Extend the Benefit-In-Kind zero rate on electric vehicles to 2020.
*Extend VRT reliefs for conventional and plug-in-hybrids to 2020, subject to C02 thresholds.
*Provide additional relief through the Diesel Rebate Scheme to hauliers to compensate that sector for the increased cost of fuel; and
*Increase of the carbon levy on motor fuels of €6, adding €2 for a tank full of either petrol or diesel. This will increase the cost of doing business in Ireland.
*Introduce an environmental rationale for Benefit In Kind for commercial vehicles from 2023.
*Reduce qualifying C02 thresholds for reliefs in respect of Capital Allowances and VAT reclaim on commercial vehicles.

Commenting on Budget 2020, SIMI Director General Brian Cooke said: “In the context of both an already depressed new car market and the likely impact of Brexit, there is a real fear that car sales will further deteriorate that will only slow down the renewal of Ireland’s car fleet, which is vital in our attempt to drive down emissions. In this regard, SIMI is relieved that the Minister had not increased VRT for new cars in Budget 2020.

“The replacement of the 1 per cent diesel surcharge introduced last year on new cars with a nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions-based charge to all passenger cars registering for the first time in the State from 1 January 2020 is a welcome announcement. The NOx charge will impact on older higher emitting cars which, unlike last year’s diesel surcharge, will penalise older cars with higher levels of pollutants. The Minister has recognised that newer vehicle technology is cleaner and better for the fleet.”

Mr Cooke added: “In addition, the extension of the BIK relief for Electric Vehicles out to 2022 will incentivise the choice of electric cars for companies for the duration of the normal 3 year replacement cycle. This Budget does allow the Industry some breathing space in what is likely to be a challenging 2020.”

Mr Cook concluded: “It is now important that the Industry and Government use this time to work closely together in relation to VRT into the future and the drive towards zero-emissions.” 

Drug driving a major problem on our roads

Figures from the Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) Annual Academic Lecture, show that 68 per cent of drivers with a positive roadside drug test between April 2017 and July 2019, tested positive for cannabis, writes Trish Whelan. 

Cocaine follows closely behind as the main illicit drug detected after cannabis with 37 per cent of samples tested being positive for this substance. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety findings also show that cannabis is now not far behind alcohol in blood and urine samples it examined.

This annual lecture marks the start of ‘Irish Road Safety Week’, and focused on drug driving. It featured insights on the subject from international and national experts.

Minister Shane Ross TD
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Spot, Mr Shane Ross TD said: “Driving under the influence of drugs has been a statutory offence since 1961 but it wasn’t until 2017, with the introduction of Preliminary Drug Testing, that we had a drug testing device capable of testing for the presence of drugs in drivers at the roadside and in the Garda station.” He said it is clear that its introduction has resulted in an increase in drug driving detections, but the results show that a continued enforcement and education effort is needed to tackle this killer behaviour.

Moyagh Murdock, Chief Executive of the RSA, said: “The analysis of blood and urine samples sent to the MBRS by the Gardai, and the analysis of toxicology reports of driver and motorcyclist fatalities, are starting to give a clearer understanding of the prevalence of drug driving in Ireland. And it’s concerning because they confirm that drug driving is a major problem on our roads.” 

Moyagh Murdock, RSA
She said the RSA ‘will continue to educate drivers on the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and will work closely with the Gardai to support their enforcement activity.” They will also, she added, do more to examine the factors around drug driving and examine international best practice to find interventions that can be applied here to tackle drug driving.

Professor Denis A Cusack, Director, Medical Bureau of Road Safety said younger men are the largest age group represented in positive samples. He said since the start of road side screening devices for drugs, the Gardai have been successful in detecting drivers under the influence of drugs in increasing numbers. However, he believed there is also a need to increase drug testing of drivers in Garda stations. 

For driver fatalities with a positive toxicology for at least one of the drug categories examined in the study, (90) 86 per cent were male, and just over half were aged 25-44 years.

Revised Skoda Superb makes an entrance

Skoda’s flagship model, Superb, has just got better, writes Trish Whelan.

The newly revised Superb goes on sale in Skoda dealerships from 12 October priced from €30,750.

The first Superb was first launched in Ireland in 2001 and has become one of the Czech car maker’s best-selling models with over 18,000 vehicles currently on Irish roads. This is the third and most successful version that has now been extensively revised both inside and out.

Available in a Combi (Estate) and Saloon (Lift back) versions, Skoda has slightly modified the exterior. The redesigned front bumper means the car’s length has increased by 8mm to 4,869mm and by 6mm to 4,862mm in the Combi version. The grille now bears double slats, is larger and protrudes a little further down into the front bumper. From the entry-level version, the narrower headlights come with LED technology as standard for the dipped and high beam. At the rear, a horizontal chrome trim connects the full LED tail lights whilst the new ‘Skoda’ block lettering defines the brand’s new design language.

Skoda say the Superb, renowned for its huge interior space, ‘continues to set spaciousness benchmarks in the segment with 625 and 660 litres of luggage capacity in the Lift back and Combi respectively.

The engine line-up features 1.5 TSI petrol units producing 150bhp, offered with 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG automatic transmissions. Diesels are a heavily revised 2.0 TDI 150bhp and a 1.6TDI 120bhp 7-speed DSG as well as a more powerful 2.0 TDI 190bhp unit with 4x4.

Updates include new technologies and a more sophisticated interior. Full LED Matrix headlights are available for the first time in a Skoda production model and feature as standard on SportLine and L&K models. Some new assistance systems are also making their debut, such as Predictive Cruise Control.

Skoda confirmed that just 3 per cent of Superbs sold are the entry ‘Active’ version with most customers opting for more heavily specced models such as the Style, SportLine and L&K.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch, Ray Leddy, Head of Marketing & Product said: “The Superb has been such an important model in our brand’s evolution in Ireland. The current and third incarnation of the Superb has been a contender for the Number 1 position in the segment overtaking many of the traditional bestsellers.

“Thanks to its reliability and excellent residual values, the Superb has been a major success with business and fleet customers, with 23 per cent of its sales being attributed to this channel. We see used imported premium German cars from 12-48 months as the Superb’s biggest competitor.”

The Superb goes on sale from this Saturday. PCP finance is available from 0 per cent up to the 31 October.