Audi has revealed its new A8 although promised styling changes have been toned down.     Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Audi has revealed its new A8 although promised styling changes have been toned down. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Audi has revealed its new luxury flagship, the A8, at the Audi Summit in Barcelona and while models and pricing have yet to be announced for SA, we do know it will be here in the second half of 2018.

The styling falls short of many of the promises made by design boss Marc Lichte and the Prologue concept, instead being more of an evolution. Instead, the interior receives the most radical makeover, with dual touchscreens in the centre console, as well as the digital Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster.

Audi claims it has the first Level 3 autonomous driving in the A8, although Mercedes is claiming the same thing with its new S-Class launching internationally this week. At the push of a button, the A8 can take care of all driving at speeds up to 60km/h, although only on dual carriageways with a clear barrier in the middle.

Other tech includes organic LED (OLED) lighting up front, a BMW-style remote parking app, a plug-in hybrid version which can be wirelessly charged and fully active suspension. More on the new A8 in next week’s issue.

Happy 60th birthday

It is 60 years since the arrival of the first-generation Fiat 500.    Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
It is 60 years since the arrival of the first-generation Fiat 500. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

More than 1,200 Fiat 500s from across Europe revved into the Italian foothills on Saturday to mark the 60th birthday of the iconic little car.

The Italian classic took its first spin on July 4 1957. Eighteen years later, more than 4.2-million had rolled off the factory line. Production then took a 22-year break before the model was relaunched in 2007 with modern tweaks, although it retained its traditional curves. Since then 2-million more Fiat 500s have been made, according to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The birthday bash had hundreds of the original models parked in Garlenda, northwest Italy.

A cheap city vehicle that proved popular in post-war Europe, the Fiat 500 had its status as a design icon sealed this week when a 1968 original entered the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In Garlenda, a whole museum is devoted to the car.

Petrol, diesel: au revoir

French car maker Renault, is already one of the leaders in electric vehicles.      Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
French car maker Renault, is already one of the leaders in electric vehicles. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

France’s government says it will ban the sale of any new car with a petrol or diesel engine from 2040, just 23 years from now. The move came just a day after Volvo announced it would electrify all of its new models from 2019 and Mercedes-Benz announced it would start building battery-electric cars with Chinese car maker BAIC from 2020.

Under President Emmanuel Macron the French are taking the emissions-limiting climate accords seriously. Macron wants France to become carbon neutral. "We are announcing an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040," Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot said, calling the move a "veritable revolution".

The French car makers have a running start to meet the law, with the Renault-Nissan alliance already the world’s largest maker of battery-electric (BEV) cars and its latest acquisition, Mitsubishi, a world leader in plug-in hybrids.

Of the two million electric cars sold globally, the Renault-Nissan alliance accounts for nearly 450,000 of them. That said, pure BEVs accounted for just 0.6% of European new car registrations in 2016.

PSA, which controls Peugeot and Citroen, will deliver a new range of battery-electric and hybrid cars from 2019, based around an all-new architecture.

"The target is a tough one, but France wants to become the number one green economy," Hulot insisted.

To reach that goal, France would have to overtake Norway, which has the highest per-capita take-up rate of electric cars in the world, thanks to healthy subsidies. Norway has set itself a target allowing only battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars for sale by 2025, eight years from now.

The upper house of France’s neighbour, Germany, has also pushed for an end to internal-combustion cars by 2030, as has pollution-blighted India. Neither of those suggestions has developed into binding laws, though.

Less desire to drive

Fewer teenagers in the UK are getting their car learner licences.      Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Fewer teenagers in the UK are getting their car learner licences. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

The days when teenagers couldn’t wait to get their learner’s licence might be coming to an end, at least in some countries.

In the UK, research by automotive consumer website, Honest John, has found that the number of 17-year-olds taking the practical driving test has fallen by 100,000 since 2007-08 and the number of under-25s that are learning to drive is down by 20%.

Most of the reasons are due to cost, with many citing the cost of insurance as a reason not to buy a car. In the UK, insurance is mandatory and comprehensive insurance can cost a 17-year-old as much as R255,000 a year.

Even the cost of learning to drive has escalated. The UK Department of Transport says the average learner requires 47 hours of tuition before they can pass their driving test.

It is not all about cost though. Many are following their counterparts in major cities around the world and simply not seeing a need to learn to drive due to the availability of public transport, Uber and a future that is likely to feature autonomous vehicles.

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