Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

BMW expands car share scheme

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

BMW has announced plans to introduce its car sharing programme to major cities across Europe. Currently the scheme is being run in Munich in partnership with car rental company Sixt. BMW has spread 300 1-Series models throughout the German city which can be hired by members of the scheme for around 25 pence per minute.

Those who register for the initiative with BMW dealers are able to use an application on their mobile phone to locate the nearest available vehicle. Once in the car, a PIN is entered and the car is activated. Payment for the journey is then taken from the driver’s credit card. Refuelling teams ensure that the cars always have a full tank and satellites track the cars’ positions.

Sales and marketing boss for BMW’s mobility services in Munich, Tony Douglas, said the success of the scheme meant that BMW and Sixt were looking to expand to Berlin. He added that BMW provided the cars and Sixt was in charge of running the customer database and logistics.

Among the other cities which could soon see the car sharing scheme are London, Birmingham and Manchester, according to Douglas. The car-maker has a £62 million fund for expanding its mobility services. As well as the car-sharing scheme, BMW has invested in My City Way based in New York.

Among the services offered is advice on the best route to take through the city. The scheme is due to come to London and will offer similar services under the title My London Way.

Flying car gets US safety approval

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Authorities in the US have given the seal of approval to a flying car which means it could soon be seen in the skies over Britain. The Terrafugia Transition has retractable wings which allow it to operate as a normal car on the roads. When in car-mode it is capable of a top speed of 65mph and will fit into an average garage. When the wings are deployed the Transition becomes a two-seater aircraft capable of 115mph. On a full tank of unleaded it is capable of a range of 500 miles.

Carl Dietrich, founder of Terrafugia, described the machine as being like a miniature Transformer. Turning it from plane into car takes around 15 seconds as the wings fold away and the power is transferred from the four-blade propeller to the back wheels.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US has said that it will give exemptions which mean that the Transition will be allowed to operate on American roads. Permission was given after designers fixed stability problems and added tyres which are appropriate for runways and roads.

According to Jonathan Nicholson of the Civil Aviation Authority, backing by the US safety authorities would mean European counterparts were likely to give their approval as safety standards are similar.

The carbon-fibre vehicle is already attracting interest from potential buyers in the UK and Sir Richard Branson has said he would like to find out more. The Transition is expected to go into production next year and will retail at £155,000.

Enterprise to invest in growing electric fleet

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Enterprise Holdings has announced that it will be investing in growing its fleet of electrically powered vehicles as well as improving its infrastructure by upgrading facilities and introducing more charging stations. The car hire giant also said it was the first company in the US to introduce the Chevy Volt into its electric fleet.

Currently, Enterprise supplies customers with a range of EVs including the Nissan LEAF, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Peugeot iOn. The company will be growing the number of electric vehicles available through its WeCar programme, business schemes and Enterprise branches in territories such as Seattle, San Francisco and Portland.

In a statement, Enterprise chairman and CEO Andrew Taylor said it was vital to the future of the car hire industry to keep vehicles economically viable and acceptable to the consumer. He added that 1.6 million vehicles are introduced by the industry every year, and the way in which those vehicles are powered is going to become increasingly important.

Lisa Martini, a company spokesperson, said Enterprise intended to use 5,500 branches around the US to introduce more customers to the latest alternative technology. She added that the introduction of more EVs would help Enterprise to become more environmentally friendly.

Over the coming five years, Enterprise is aiming to reduce the amount of energy it uses, along with related costs, by 20 per cent annually. By doing this, the firm said it would save around $50 million. As well as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the firm operates the National and Alamo brands.

Talking cars could reduce road accidents

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Scientists are due to begin road testing new software which allows vehicles on the road to talk to each other. An Italian team working at the University of Bologna has come up with a system which will allow cars to tell one another what is happening up ahead long before they get there.

Unlike conventional telematics, which requires radar to tell a car if there is an obstacle in the road, the new system allows all vehicles to be in constant contact. If there is a problem, such as rapid deceleration in one car, then an alarm will be activated which will be passed along the chain of cars approaching the location allowing them to take the appropriate action long before reaching the scene of the problem.

In computer simulations, the software has been shown to reduce motorway pile-ups by as much as 40 per cent. Road tests in conjunction with manufacturer Toyota are due to take place in Los Angeles next month.

Head of the team working on the project, Professor Marco Roccetti, said the aim is to have all vehicles on the road communicating with each other all of the time. He explained that the software avoided being overloaded with information by being able to tell which vehicle is the best to receive the relevant data in order to pass it on to the next car.

Integrating the software into a sat-nav system, a car’s dashboard or a wi-fi enabled phone will cost around £25 per vehicle, according to professor Roccetti.

Thomas Cook profits hit by household budget squeeze

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Shares in Thomas Cook have taken a tumble after the travel operator announced a warning on profits. The company is blaming the recent political troubles to have hit North Africa and the Middle East as well as a lack of consumer confidence in the UK. The travel firm said that the impact from a lack of summer holiday bookings to countries including Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt is likely to be much higher than initially expected.

Forecasts in the City were that operating profits for this year would be in the region of £380 million. However, Thomas Cook has warned the figure may be closer to £320 million.

Analyst with Peel Hunt, Nick Batram, said questions were not being raised over whether management made the wrong decisions or whether Thomas Cook’s business model needed to be thoroughly revised.

The group said that its team in the UK would be conducting an operational review as household budgets continue to feel the economic squeeze. It described trading conditions in Britain as difficult. Analysts are predicting that part of the review will mean the closure of some of the travel firm’s 750 branches on the high street.

Thomas Cook did say that trading in markets outside Britain had continued to be positive, adding that in Central and Northern European markets operations were performing well.

Margins are, however, being hit in the UK, as Thomas Cook is being forced to introduce large discounts to make sure that summer packages this year do not remain on the shelves.

Hertz extends offer for Dollar Thrifty

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Car hire firm Hertz has indicated that it is not yet ready to give up the fight for control of Dollar Thrifty. The company said it would be extending its tender offer for the budget rental firm by a month. The exchange offer is viewed as a formality as Hertz will not be able to acquire Dollar unless it receives board approval due to a shareholder rights plan.

Avis is also in the running to takeover Dollar, but its recent $1 billion acquisition of Avis Europe has caused speculation that the rental company may not wish to enter a higher bid. Avis is yet to produce a counter offer to Hertz’s.

In May, Hertz offered $2.08 billion for Dollar having had a previous offer rejected by stake holders. The problem for all three companies is that nothing can happen until US antitrust regulators complete their investigations into how a takeover will affect competition.

The US Federal Trade Commission is concerned that consolidation of the car hire market has resulted in only four major rivals remaining: Enterprise, Avis, Hertz and Dollar. Seeing Dollar absorbed by one of its rivals is therefore worrying to those concerned with how less competition will impact on the consumer.

Because of the extension, the Hertz offer of $71.50 per share for Dollar will now expire on 5 August. The New York Stock Exchange on Monday saw Dollar shares being traded at $73.55. Although a small drop in price was recorded, it is still above the Hertz offer.

Rapper kicked off British Airways flight

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Dizzee Rascal, the rap star, has been removed from a British Airways flight bound for Portugal for apparently hurling abuse at a member of the airline’s cabin crew. The incident took place in the first-class cabin of an Airbus A320 which was being delayed because of a technical problem.

One witness said the rapper had become frustrated because of the delay and threw a tantrum with a member of the cabin crew. He was travelling with a friend and members of his band. Flight 506 was bound for Lisbon but had been delayed for about an hour when the outburst occurred.

The police were radioed and Rascal had to return to terminal 3. British Airways said he would not be making the journey to Portugal onboard any of its other services. The airline confirmed that two passengers had been taken off the flight because of their disruptive behaviour. However, no arrests were made.

A source at Heathrow said that such behaviour could not be allowed, adding that BA could well impose a lifetime ban on the rapper. He and his band had been due to perform alongside acts including Foo Fighters and Coldplay at the Optimus Alive! music festival.

A spokesman for Rascal said the fracas had been caused by a stewardess behaving in an unprofessional manner. He added that the singer had decided by mutual consent with staff to disembark from the flight and was very sorry that he had been unable to perform in Portugal for his fans.

Alstom still fighting for Eurostar train contract

Friday, July 8th, 2011

French train manufacturer Alstom is continuing its politically sensitive fight against Eurostar and rival train maker Siemens in the London high court. The award to build 10 new high-speed trains capable of travelling at up to 199mph went to the German firm last year. However, Alstom – and the French government – have argued that the Siemens trains do not conform to safety standards set by regulators.

The issue centres on the Siemens rolling stock operating on a distributed traction system. This means that the trains have motors beneath the carriages rather than at each end. However, the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission last year said that the trains had passed the relevant safety tests.

An industry expert said that distributed traction was already being successfully operated in other parts of Europe and that it is interesting that the French authorities have been making such a fuss about safety since the €600 million deal went to Germany.

In October last year, an appeal by Alstom was turned down in the courts with the manufacturer ordered to pay 80 per cent of Eurostar’s legal bill. Mr Justice Vos, presiding over the case, said Siemens had taken the bidding process for the contract more seriously than Alstom and appeared to have listened more closely to the requirements of Eurostar. The matter even resulted in a meeting between German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Alstom’s lawyers are now claiming they have fresh evidence that Eurostar and Siemens changed the regulatory requirements during the bidding process.

Boeing and Airbus to receive orders from Air France

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Although a number of French politicians have been understandably keen to see Air France-KLM place the majority of its new plane orders with Airbus, the flag-carrier’s chief executive, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, has said he will be splitting the contract between Airbus and Boeing. Toulouse-based Airbus SAS is partly French-owned and employs a large number of French workers.

However, Gourgeon’s decision to order from both Europe and the US will help to keep competition between the planemakers’ vibrant, and should help to keep the costs of the aircraft down. Gourgeon confirmed his decision behind closed doors to French politicians. The announcement has since been confirmed to the public by the airline.

On long-distance routes, Air France-KLM tends to favour Boeing’s 777 model whereas, on domestic flights and to various destinations throughout Europe, the airline uses the Airbus A320. Boeing is due to start flying its new 787-series, or Dreamliner, on commercial journeys with All Nippon Airways based in Japan.

Before the end of 2013, Airbus aims to have its competitor to the Dreamliner, the A350, in the skies. Brigitte Barrand, an Air France representative, said it should not come as a surprise that the airline’s contract will be split between manufacturers in Europe and the US, as Gourgeon has said this would probably be the case on a number of occasions.

Ordering competing models is not exclusive to Air France. Singapore Airlines recently announced that it too will be taking delivery of both the Dreamliner and the A350 when the models become available.

Air crash kills former British Airways captain

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Air accident investigators are attempting to find out why two small aircraft collided in mid-air near a West Sussex airport. The incident resulted in the death of former British Airways captain Alan Weal after his Vans RV6 smashed into a Diamond DA40 and plunged into the ground near Shoreham Airport.

Incredibly, the pilots of the two-seater DA40 both survived the collision without injury and were able to land safely at the airport. Gareth Abbott, a student pilot who was being debriefed at the time, described how the RV6 hit the Diamond, taking out its engine causing damage to the aircraft’s left-hand side. He added that it was a miracle that both pilots were able to walk away from the incident.

Abbot described how the other aircraft went out of control before going down. Sandra O’Kane watched the incident from her houseboat. She described how the Vans plane appeared to steer away from an area of housing and a motorway towards open ground after the impact. She added that the tail part of the aircraft fell away and she could see smaller pieces of plane falling onto a playground.

The plane then went into a nosedive and crashed behind some trees in a fireball. An air ambulance team, paramedics and firefighters attended the crash scene and the site was cordoned off by Sussex Police.

According to Superintendant Neil Honnor, the deceased pilot appeared to have fought with his plane to get it away from a local residential area and crash it on open ground.