Nuts & Bolts
By Peter Brewer
It’s a debate which has raged around the world, with learned opinion and research tempered by the reality that more young people die on our roads than any other age group.
It’s a decision which could cost lives, or possibly save them. How young should we let our children drive?
In Europe, the die is cast. Starting in France and Italy, the push toward allowing 16-year-old drivers on the road is now a legal reality across the EU, with these teens restricted to driving low-powered models known as quadricycles.
The vehicles that can be driven by 16-year-olds fall into the driving licence category P, which covers 50cc mopeds and now includes vehicles with four wheels which weigh less than 350kg and have a top speed of no more than 45km/h.
Compulsory Basic Training is required to achieve a P licence.
The move has sparked a potential massive market growth for these types of cars across Europe. Supporters of the scheme believe it’s a practical way of allowing young drivers to develop skills in a real-world environment, and capping the vehicle performance to match their low skill level.
Opponents say the cars are slow enough to be dangerous, and frustrate other motorists who get queued up behind them. Great for busy cities and short hauls on crowded streets perhaps, but I still wouldn’t like to be in one while attempting to negotiate rush hour traffic around Paris’s frenetic Arc de Triomphe.
McLaren Automotive doesn’t do things by halves whether it’s at the pinnacle of international motorsport, or designing and building a road car which it believes will raise the bar in every category.
The P1, first shown as a concept at last year’s Paris Motor Show, is now in prototype form and acknowledging that it’s almost impossible to keep big automotive secrets in this 24/7 wired world of ours, McLaren is drip-feeding the world with details of its new project.
There’s logic to the plan, of course. McLaren wants to keep its potential uber-rich clients - particularly those in the Middle East - interested and engaged, so their interest doesn’t shift toward Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Aston Martin.
In the strat osphere of the cash-burdened where a million-dollar pricetag is met with a casual shrug of the shoulders, there’s always the desire to be the first in the queue to own the latest and greatest.
Even in its camouflage livery, the P1 looks the business. It’s the spiritual successor to the BMW V12-powered, carbon fibre F1 (an example of which recently sold for $5.72 million, when its original 1995 price was $970,000).
A team of McLaren engineers are running the prototype P1 through gruelling endurance programs which would never happen with certain Italian brands for there’s a fierce determination that this road car will not only be the best in the world, but be absolutely reliable.
Having met McLaren boss Ron Dennis and been scorched by his steely glare, we’re fascinated in the technical elements of this project and can’t wait to find out more. Dennis is a man who can’t abide compromise.
The Jaguar brand is as synonymous with England as the Tower Bridge, black cabs and Winnie the Pooh. The British PM wafts around in one (stre tched and bulletproofed) and every patriotic High Street toff sees the brand as British through and through.
However, the winds of change are blowing through the beleaguered British motor industry. The high cost of producing cars in the UK is now a genuine concern for manufacturers and if the owner of the brand just happens to be an Indian company (which has already invested heavily in its own manufacturing plant), then there’s significant financial pressure to move offshore.
It won’t happen overnight, of course; the Indian owners of Land Rover and Jaguar know full well that the innate Britishness of the brands is one of their strongest values. But they also know that people are caring less and less about where their cars are made. Australians, for instance, don’t give a fig that their Honda Accords and Civics are built in Thailand, or that their Volkwagen Golfs and BMW 3-Series are imported from South Africa.
What will happen is a gradual transition process which will ultimately keep Jaguar design and development in the UK (where, arguably, the best talent is to be found), but push all production to India, where costs are much lower. It may take as long as 10 years but the enormous savings in production costs is one which makes the decision inevitable.
The first Jaguar produced at the new Pune factory rolled off the production line last week. Land Rover Freelanders have been built at Pune for two years (production started there barely after the ink had dried on the sales contract), but considerable re-investment was needed in the paint plant for the Jags.
It’s a modest start. First off the Pune line is the four-door XF sedan, with a 2.2 litre diesel engine aimed only at domestic customers.
Toyota and BMW signed a deal last week which will link the two international automotive powerhouse companies in a raft of new and long-running projects, starting with a shared sports car engineering platform and ending with a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle in production by 2020.
Not a lot of detail is known about the size or type of sports car planned in the joint engineering venture but it makes good sense that given the success of the BRZ-FT86 program (shared with Subaru), Toyota would be looking to produce a follow-up that’s market-ready four years hence.
The shared platform is certain to be constructed from, or use, reinforced composite materials, as the joint development of this technology is also locked into the agreement.
In the medium term, the two companies will collaborate on battery technology which will follow the current lithium-ion materials.
The new batteries will be lithium-air, with prototypes already demonstrating energy density up to twice as effective as lithium-ion.
Toyota and BMW is a potent combination. The companies are in different orbits, have very different agendas and product plans but know there’s much to be gained from being selective in a series of shared engineering objectives.
What’s that saying? “Keep your friends close but your enemies even closer”.
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