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Jaguar Land Rover to create 150 new jobs in Ireland

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The UK automobile giant is to open a new software engineering centre in Shannon, Co. Clare, Ireland, which will create 150 new jobs. (Pictured: Dr Ralf Speth, CEO, Jaguar Land Rover)

Shannon is seen as a great business link for the firm globally and the new centre will look to hone in on Jaguar Land Rover establishing the company’s plans for electric and automated vehicles development through new, innovative technologies.

The development of the next generation of electric vehicles at Shannon is supported by the Irish Development Agency.

The news also correlates with Jaguar Land Rover teaming up with the online education provider Udacity. This education firm specialises in courses revolving around automated driving, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and data analytics.

The Minster of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen, said: “This is a great boost for Shannon, Co. Clare and the Midwest Region. Jaguar Land Rover are iconic brands which have endured through innovation and staying ahead of their competitors. This new software engineering centre will bring 150 new high-quality jobs to Shannon. The region has much to offer with qualified and talented people and I wish Jaguar Land Rover and its team well in its endeavours.”

Nick Rogers, Executive Director of Product Engineering, said: “Technical innovation lies at the heart of Jaguar Land Rover and our innovation is continuous. The new facility provides an exciting opportunity for us to pioneer future autonomous and electrification technologies. The heart of our business will always be in the UK. The creation of a team in Shannon strengthens our international engineering capabilities and complements our existing team of more than 10,000 engineers based in the UK.”

Read it on businessandfinance.com

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Jaguar Land Rover hits record sales

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The UK’s largest carmaker says it hit record sales in 2017 even with the first drop in six years in demand for new cars across Britain.

According to Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), 178,601 Jaguars were sold last year, which is a rise of 20% from the year before. Land Rover sales grew 2% to 442,508. Sales have more than tripled since 2009 and this news marks the seventh successive year of growth.

This is even more remarkable given the decline in demand for new cars across the UK in 2017, the first drop in over half a decade.

China was the most important region for the company, with sales reaching 146,399, up 23% year-on-year. This, along with growing demand in the US, has provided a safety net against the uncertainty of the UK’s position in the EU and Brexit.

JLR’s Sales Director, Andy Goss, said that though sales targets were delivered, the company still “[faces] tough times in key markets such as the UK”, particularly given the tax hit on diesel.

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Business and consumer demand for new cars declined in 2017

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Demand for new cars fell 6.8% last year, the first drop in six years.

Sales of business fleet purchases dropped as well by 4.5%. Total new car registrations fell 5.7% to just over 2.5 million cars.

This decline can be attributed to the unknown future of diesel/diesel levies and Brexit uncertainty, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The CEO of the SMMT, Mike Hawes, said that 2017 was a “lacklustre” year and that further weakening is to be expected in the market for 2018.

Business registrations saw the biggest fall with a 7.8% decline. These figures are an issue, but even so, demand is still at a historically high level, says Mike Hawes.

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Thomas Cook is planning the closure of 50 stores

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If the plan was to go ahead, the travel operator would close the Thomas Cook and Cooperative Travel branded stores by March 2018.

The move comes in the wake of a fall in footfall leading to a decline in profits at the travel agency. 400 people are said to be affected but the company will rehouse many of them.

Saying this, online sales are on the increase.

Stores generated 47% of Thomas Cook’s holiday bookings in 2017, but online sales have grown 27% in the UK.

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UK car manufacturing falters in September

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The fall in UK car manufacturing was predominantly attributed to an overall fall in demand of 14% in the UK market.

UK car output fell 4.1% to 153,224 vehicles last month. The months of April, May, June and August also saw declines.

Domestic demand declined by a large sum to 31,421 units (14.2%) in September. This contributes to the overall year-to-date production decrease of 2.2%. Alongside this, exports dropped by 1.1% to 121,803.

The first nine months of 2017 has seen 1,259,509 cars manufactured, a decline of 2.2% when compared with last year.

With many looking towards more environmentally-friendly modes of transport and the advent of the e-car, the traditional British car manufacturers are unsurprisingly taking a hit. The beginning of this week saw Mayor Sadiq Khan introduce the toxicity charge (T-charge) to encourage people to drive less polluting cars. This will add to the already-existing £11.50 congestion charge.

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Virgin Trains to auction first class seats via app

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East Coast train line operator Virgin Trains is to allow passengers to bid for first class tickets via a smartphone app, in a move it describes as a global first.

The Seatfrog app will enable passengers to bid for upgrades up to 30 minutes before departure, with upgrades potentially costing as little as £5, according to the operator.

“We have a strong record of innovating for the benefit of our customers and we are really excited to be partnering with Seatfrog to offer customers more opportunities to experience first class,” said Suzanne Donnelly, commercial director at Virgin Trains on the east coast.

“Our innovative partnership with Seatfrog means passengers can get last minute upgrades to first class seats from as little as £5 and there are real deals to be had. Plus, the live bidding element means you can decide at the last minute if you fancy treating yourself and, if you do, bidding to bag a bargain is great way to go about it.”

Seatfrog is available on Android and iOS, and the company has offices in London, Sydney and Tokyo. Its CEO, Iain Griffin, said that “modern travel is full of rules and regulations that can make getting to our final destination a frustrating experience.

“Everyone loves an upgrade, but the excitement of it and the ability to just change your mind at the last minute is suffering because of the many complicated processes that exist today. Seatfrog is giving passengers the power to upgrade easily and transparently, in the palm of their hand.

“Plus, because we are firm believers that it should never be too late to change your mind, you can upgrade right up to 30 minutes before you go. We’re delighted to be bringing Seatfrog to Virgin Trains’ passengers and to be helping more people than ever to enjoy the perks of First with zero hassle.”

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Michael O’Leary reacts to Ryanair “mess”

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Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has responded to the airline’s mass cancellation of flights with an apology, several days after the issue first reared its head.

The Irish airline is in crisis mode, cancelling dozens of flights a day as it struggles with a backlog of annual leave. Media reports this weekend were dominated by inconvenienced passengers voicing their grievances on social media and in airports.

“While over 98% of our customers will not be affected by these cancellations over the next six weeks, we apologise unreservedly to those customers whose travel will be disrupted, and assure them that we have done our utmost to try to ensure that we can re-accommodate most of them on alternative flights on the same or next day,” said O’Leary today.

Confusion regarding the cause of the cancellations mounted over the weekend, with the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association claiming that 700 pilots have left the airline in the past financial year and that issues surrounding annual leave have been known for some time.

“Ryanair is not short of pilots – we were able to fully crew our peak summer schedule in June, July and August – but we have messed up the allocation of annual leave to pilots in September and October because we are trying to allocate a full year’s leave into a nine-month period from April to December,” O’Leary responded. “This issue will not recur in 2018 as Ryanair goes back onto a 12-month calendar leave year from January 1 to December 31, 2018.

“This is a mess of our own making,” he said. “I apologise sincerely to all our customers for any worry or concern this has caused them over the past weekend. We have only taken this decision to cancel this small proportion of our 2,500 daily flights so that we can provide extra standby cover and protect the punctuality of the 98% of flights that will be unaffected by these cancellations.”

The crisis is expected to cost the airline millions in compensation under European regulations.

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Jaguar launches I-Pace one-make racing series

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Luxury carmaker Jaguar has announced a one-make racing series based around its electric I-Pace sports car, with the first race taking place next year.

The series, known as the I-Pace eTrophy, will use an ‘arrive and drive’ format for 20 drivers at each race with full technical support, spare parts and equipment. The modified electric I-Paces will use technology from the manufacturer’s I-Pace SUV, which will go on sale later this year.

“With 20 identical specification production based I-Pace eTrophy race cars going head to head, it comes down to the drivers and their individual driving styles to be crowned champion,” the company said. “Held over ten races and in some of the world’s most celebrated cities, the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy promises to be the next chapter in our Race To Innovate.”

The new series will appear on the supporting bill of the all-electric Formula E world championship, which Jaguar Racing joined in 2016. The company recently announced that all its new road cars will be electric or hybrid from 2020 onwards.

“Jaguar returned to racing in 2016 with the mission ‘Race to Innovate’,” explained Gerd Mäuser, Jaguar Racing chairman. “With the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy, we’ve strengthened our commitment to battery electric vehicles, international motorsport and Formula E. As a British team, we’re proud to announce today the launch of the world’s first production battery electric vehicle championship. We’ve always said we want to prove our electrification technologies on the track – this is the proof.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a full grid of Jaguar I-Pace race cars in late 2018, soon after the first Jaguar I-Pace hits the road in Europe. Ultimately, this innovative series will enhance the technology in our future electric vehicles and benefit our customers. Formula E has grown exponentially since we joined as the first premium manufacturer last year, with recent commitments from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche,” he said.

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Southern Rail owner handed £13.4m fine

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Southern Rail’s owner has been fined £13.4m by the Department of Transport over delays.

The Go-Ahead Group operates Southern Rail via its Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) subsidiary.

“We are pleased that this issue has been concluded, and accept and are sorry that our service levels haven’t been good enough for passengers”, said GTR CEO Charles Horton. “We run the most congested network in the UK where passenger journeys have doubled in the last 12 years.”

“This has meant we have been running services for more and more passengers while also allowing stations to be rebuilt, platforms extended, track and signalling replaced and new trains and technology introduced too.”

Unions have rejected the fine as being too lenient.

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Advance tickets to be sold on day of travel on UK trains

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Train operators have agreed a deal whereby advance tickets can be sold on the day of travel to British railway users, in some cases up to ten minutes before departure.

The announcement was made by the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together Network Rail and the railway operators.

“Not everyone can plan journeys in advance and now more people can buy cheaper tickets on the day, even on their way to the station,” explained Jacqueline Starr, Managing Director of Customer Experience at the RDG.

“We want customers to get the best possible deal whenever they travel. With 97 per cent of your fare going back into running and improving the railway, investment is driving quicker improvement, more choice and greater freedom.”

The initiative was first made by CrossCountry in 2015, with over a million advance ticket journeys undertaken since then. The popularity of advance tickets, typically only available until midnight before the day of travel, has quadrupled in the past decade according to the RDG.