UN plans to make emergency brakes compulsory
Auto-braking cars expected to significantly improve road safety, especially in cities
Dozens of countries have come out in favour of fresh international regulations requiring all new cars and lighter motor vehicles to be equipped with automatic emergency braking systems, the UN says.
The UN Economic Commission for Europe said about 40 countries had so far agreed to a draft UN regulation for Advanced Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS) in cars, reports AFP Relaxnews.
"This will significantly improve road safety, especially in cities, where in the EU alone, over 9,500 fatalities were recorded in 2016, accounting for 38% of all road deaths," the commission said.
Using sensors, such systems monitor the proximity of a vehicle or pedestrian in front of the AEBS-equipped car.
In situations where the sensors indicate a collision is imminent, and the driver does not react to the system's warning alert, emergency braking is automatically applied to avoid a crash.
AEBS systems have been in use for a number of years in mostly premium cars, but there were no standard technical requirements guaranteeing the effective performance of such systems so far.
The new UN regulation would impose strict and internationally harmonised requirements for the use of AEBS at low speeds (up to 60km/h), even in unpredictable traffic situations in urban areas.
Once adopted, the regulation should enter into force in early 2020 and affect new cars sold in the more than 40 countries that have approved the draft regulation.
McLaren says no to SUVs
British sportscar maker McLaren will not follow Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini down the SUV path. Not ever.
McLaren Automotive’s head of design operations, Mark Roberts, confirmed to the Canadian International Auto Show that an SUV is against the supercar brand’s philosophy.
After being asked if McLaren would sit on the sidelines as Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley reaped the financial rewards of their heavyweight haulers, Roberts insisted it would.
“I can easily answer that and say ‘no’,” Roberts said. “We really do deliver on the ultimate driving experience. For us, it means no compromise. An SUV doesn’t allow us to deliver on that. It’s not a no-compromise kind of vehicle.”
Yet there’s little doubt McLaren will inevitably come under pressure from the financial rewards and market growth of the genre, which has seen even the industry’s venerable old dame, Rolls-Royce, join the bandwagon.
It teased its Cullinan SUV in 2013, but only put it on sale last year. Already, though, Rolls-Royce has had to ramp up production at its Goodwood, England, facility and added 10% to its 2,000-head workforce.
“I would like to have a little bit more supply," Rolls-Royce Motor Cars North America CEO Martin Fritsches said.
"And I don't get it, because we are running on 100% of production capacity, increasing the production capacity throughout the weeks and months, but still not being able to catch up to demand."
In an echo of the Porsche and Lamborghini experiences, Fritsches insisted at least half of its Cullinan customers were new to Rolls-Royce and were far younger than traditional buyers.
But neither the volumes (Rolls-Royce sold a record 4,107 vehicles last year) nor the profits will sway McLaren, Roberts insisted.
Instead, it will launch 18 new vehicles (including special editions) before 2025 and will increase its capacity from 4,500 cars a year to at least 5,000.
China sales keep tumbling
The world’s car makers have a problem. Having bet big on China’s car market to keep rolling on, it has instead fallen for the seventh month in a row.
The world’s largest car market saw its January sales stumble 15.8% from 2018 to 2019, which has established players tightening their belts and relative newcomers trembling.
China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) confirmed its January volume dropped to 2.37-million cars and the big fall in January followed a 14% decline in November and a 13% drop in December.
It’s safe to say the days when the Chinese market’s unlimited growth could be relied upon to shore up stagnant European sales and wobbly American volumes are over.
CAAM explained that the decline has been partly a result of the deflation of the country’s growth bubble and fallout from US President Donald Trump’s trade war.
It follows more than 20 years of sustained growth in China, though it can be a fickle market for the unready, as Jaguar Land Rover have discovered at a cost of a $3bn write-down this year already.
The one ray of light in the Chinese market was New Energy Vehicles (plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells and EVs), which rose 140% to 85,700 cars in January.
China’s declining vehicle sales has hit Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) particularly hard. The Tata-owned premium car maker posted a $4bn loss in 2018’s fourth quarter, and blamed most of its latest financial crisis on its failure in China, where its sales dropped 35% in the last nine months of 2018.
China has provided a platform for most of the world’s premium brands to grow, but JLR has largely failed there.
JLR has lost an average of £670m a quarter over the last year and is £4.7bn in debt. Without a significant cash input from the parent company or an outside investor, it is on schedule to run out of money in about a year.
The biggest car maker in the UK, JLR is in the process of cutting 4,500 jobs (about 10% of its workforce), after 1,500 workers already left during the course of last year.