Opinion: Goodbye car makers, hello mobility solutions providers

Toyota compact BEV - front

Social pressures, the rising cost of development and the rapid pace of the industry are all factors influencing the shift towards shared mobility

Car companies are dead, long live the mobility companies!

At least that’s what they’re telling us. The implication is that old-school car makers have seen the way the world is turning, and are now ready and prepared to get you from where you are to where you want to go, whether you want to travel in a vehicle you own, one you are leasing, subscribing to or even renting by the hour – and, indeed, if you want to go by any means from bus to scooter, or anything in between. And all controlled online, of course.

So don’t, whatever you do, mistake them for old-fashioned, mass production car makers.

In general, where there’s a trend there’s a movement, so these claims are not to be dismissed lightly. Car making is complex enough without these added challenges, and the only reason to face into them is because they are perceived to be both inevitable and beyond their control. How we travel, and how we use cars is changing. Change, or die, seems to be the subtext.

So it is that this year’s Tokyo motor show is yet another reminder for those of us with a European leaning that the Japanese car makers have been talking about – and enacting – such ideas for far longer than most, and certainly longer than the German car makers talking about such concepts with heavy rhetoric at the recent Frankfurt motor show.

So while cynical eyes may roll at Toyota’s Tokyo show slogan of “Mobility For All” and raise an eyebrow at the fact there isn’t going to be a single car on its show stand, but rather a variety of mobility concepts, the wise head might also recall that these are themes that were running at the last show, two years ago, and being developed long before that. The planning has been long, and the momentum is now strong.

Toyota appears to be the most ready for the transition, its front foot being put firmly forward by charismatic company boss Akio Toyoda, having stepped up several gears when he announced the firm’s sponsorship of the 2020 Olympics and (most crucially) Paralympics a few years ago.

Messaging that sounded rather convenient in terms of its timing and purpose then now appears far-sighted; after all, if you can give mobility to people with disabilities, then your company’s capability to think big is clear and its purpose is immediately far deeper rooted. By the time the Games begin Toyota’s concepts of this year’s show, from its two-seat electric city vehicle to the more innovative i-Road and i-Walk, will be readying production. Odd looking they may be, but they underline Toyota’s shift into fundamentally new mobility solutions.

This is a movement that is about staying relevant, both in terms of meeting customer needs and emphasising, and deep rooting, the concept of mobility being at the heart of the modern world, no matter what the challenges that may bring, from environmental damage to stress from traffic jams. Certainly Toyoda and his team give the impression that this is a mission that matters to them far more than for making big headlines or big profits, and which is core to their survival, itself quite a big statement when you consider we’re talking about the world’s largest car maker today. To paraphrase, if they provide the answers they believe they will have a bright future.

As if car making wasn’t undergoing enough change, this is another fundamental reinvention that needs to be embraced.

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Source: Autocar Online

The Flying V would be unlike any other passenger airliner, even in 2040

Dutch airline KLM turned 100 earlier this month and decided to give itself a birthday present: a shiny, sleek, futuristic-looking, sustainable aircraft. Or at least the possibility of one in 2040. “This could be the next thing,” says Dr. Roelf Vos, professor of flight performance and propulsion at Delft University of Technology and the head researcher on the Flying V project. “It at least deserves some investigation.”

The Flying V, touted in press releases as “revolutionary,” is what is known as a blended wing body, or BWB, aircraft, a design with no distinct wing and a body structure like more conventional aircraft. The shape reduces drag, which means the plane needs less fuel to operate. TU Delft claims the Flying V will consume 20% less fuel than a similarly sized traditional aircraft. “These are estimates,” cautions Vos. “We still have 5-10 years of research before we could test a full-scale aircraft.”

The design of the Flying V wasn’t invented by Vos or even TU Delft or KLM; it was the idea of a Technical University of Berlin student, Justus Benad, working on his thesis project at airplane maker Airbus. He tested a scale model in 2014, and Airbus patented the design but didn’t move further on the project. Vos saw the concept in a news article in 2015 and wondered if Benad’s calculations were accurate. “I was skeptical,” he said. He had two students review the concepts, one of whom went to Berlin to meet with Benad, and, together, they concluded the concept had potential.

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Source: Ars Technica

How car firms will alter their prices post-Brexit

Brexit cars

As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, we survey a range of makers’ pricing strategies in the wake of the split

After three years of turmoil, Brexit is finally entering its endgame – hopefully. Although Britain’s final relationship with the European Union (EU) is yet to be decided, car manufacturers have started staking out their responses to a variety of different outcomes.

As the most damaging option, firms have naturally focused on ‘no deal’ or an otherwise ‘hard’ Brexit, which could trigger changes to their pricing structures. If Britain leaves the EU without a deal or a sufficient free trade agreement, the UK could find itself subject to significant tariffs, disrupting manufacturers’ supply chains and potentially being passed onto the consumer in higher list prices.

Crucially, this may even apply on cars ordered before the official exit date, as companies seek to protect profit margins in response to rising costs. Not all manufacturers intend to handle this the same way, however, with costs to the company and consumer varying widely between different brands. Here is what those who responded to requests for comment have said:

BMW and Mini: Tariffs not passed on

BMW and Mini are offering price protection for orders placed on and before 31 October or whatever date Britain leaves the EU. BMW has confirmed that this offer encompasses any tariffs, so even if the UK were leave without a deal, BMW and Mini buyers would be protected from any and all price increases.

Jaguar and Land Rover: Tariffs not passed on

Jaguar has confirmed it will not backdate tariff costs on cars that are registered before 31 December, guaranteeing prices at that date. This is slightly different to guaranteeing prices at the point of order, since registration can be delayed until significantly after the order date. It appears that cars ordered very close to the EU exit date may risk not being protected by the offer, making their buyers vulnerable to extra bills. It’s likely that a similar guarantee will be available from Land Rover.

Volkswagen Group (Volkswagen, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, AudiSeat and Skoda): Tariffs may be passed on

The Volkswagen Group has confirmed that it will price-protect for customer orders placed before 1 November for all the above brands and vehicles. However, the Group stressed that there are terms and conditions and implied that the guarantee does not cover tariffs. As the Government has yet to announce what the import duty level would be in a no-deal Brexit, the Volkswagen spokesperson could not specify exactly how great the cost to consumers might be, only intimating that the price of cars and parts imported to the UK may increase.

Ford: Tariffs passed on

Ford adopts a similar position to the Volkswagen Group, stating that all prices on orders will be guaranteed, except in the case of tariffs. If tariffs are applied, Ford said these will be passed onto the consumer but emphasised that these would appear as a separate line on customers’ statements and would be limited to the exact cost of the tariffs. Ford of Britain’s managing director, Andy Barratt, has said: “In a no-deal scenario and the imposition of a WTO 10% tariff regime on new vehicles, prices for Ford’s most popular passenger and commercial vehicles would rise by between £1000 and £2000. We will provide more details if or when the situation dictates.” However, British communications executive director John Gardiner cautioned that it will be “impossible to avoid disruption in [the event of a no deal Brexit]”.

PSA Group (PeugeotCitroënDSOpel and Vauxhall): Tariffs passed on

A PSA Group spokesperson has told Autocar that customers who order a car from any of the firm’s brands on and before 31 October aren’t protected from price increases due to tariffs. If Britain chooses a hard Brexit and tariffs are applied, these will be passed onto the consumer.

Porsche: Tariffs passed on

Porsche has previously warned customers of a 10% increase in prices in a no-deal Brexit. A Porsche spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

Kia: No position confirmed but tariffs likely passed on

Kia’s position regarding tariffs is complicated. Because of a free trade agreement signed several months ago, the company’s vehicles, which are built in South Korea, are protected from tariffs and will therefore pass no extra costs to the consumer. On the other hand, the manufacturer also has a factory in Slovakia, with which Britain does not have a free trade agreement, making tariffs likely in the event of no-deal Brexit. Kia was unable to confirm that tariffs on these models wouldn’t be passed onto buyers, stressing that it is too early for it to commit to a strategy.

Mercedes-Benz and Smart: Tariffs may be passed on

Mercedes will guarantee the prices of all Mercedes-Benz and Smart cars ordered before 31 October. However, this doesn’t appear to include tariffs. A spokesperson from the company commented: “Should a customs duty tariff become applicable on cars imported into the UK after leaving the EU, we will review our pricing to adapt to the changed circumstances. Please understand that we are not currently able to give any indication as to how that might look.”

The firm is also guaranteeing prices on lease vehicles, according to the leasing site Leasing Options. What this means is unclear, though, the site only saying vaguely that Mercedes will “honour [cars’ pre-Brexit] price[s]”. Further details reveal that customers have to confirm the delivery date and that their order must be booked into Mercedes’ system before the guarantee will apply. Because there may be a time lag between ordering and finalisation, customers who order close to 31 October might not be protected. It also appears that costs could be added in the event of tariffs.

Toyota: No position confirmed

Toyota was tightlipped about its strategy. A spokesperson said that it has no changes to its prices planned in the wake of Brexit; this could mean that tariffs would not be passed onto consumers, but the company didn’t explicitly tell Autocar that this is the case.

Nissan: No position confirmed

A spokesperson said that Nissan generally guarantees prices at the point of order but declined to explain whether this included any tariffs that might come into force post-Brexit or to comment on its general Brexit pricing strategy.

Rolls-Royce: No position confirmed

Rolls-Royce said there were no official communications.

Bentley: No position confirmed

Customers ordering Bentleys before 31 October are price-protected. A spokesperson said Bentley anticipates increased costs regardless of the UK’s relationship with the EU but added that it will not make a decision on pricing until this is finalised.

Renault: No position confirmed

Autocar has contacted Renault for comment but has yet to receive a response.

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Source: Autocar Online

Airstream builds Astrovan II for Boeing CST-100 astronaut transport

“Everything was better in the old days” can be an appealing sentiment, particularly in these trying times. It’s not true, of course—everything wasn’t better back in the day, and human memory is excellent at ignoring all the horrible, terrible bits and just hanging on to the happy ones. But that doesn’t mean all progress is necessarily great, either. Exihibit A: Astrovan II, the new vehicle meant to transport NASA’s astronauts to the launchpad of the still-not-ready CST-100 Starliner crewed capsule.

In the old days, when NASA still had its own crew-rated launch capability, those crews made the nine-mile journey to the launchpad in style. From 1984 until the end of the Space Shuttle program, that meant getting into a modified Airstream Excella RV, dubbed the Astrovan. Astronauts and Airstream have a fair amount of history—one of the company’s distinctive shiny aluminum trailers was also used as the Mobile Quarantine Facility for the Apollo program. So when Boeing wanted a new transport for forthcoming NASA missions using the CST-100, it too turned to the Ohio-based manufacturer.

The result is Astrovan II, built on a modified Airstream Atlas Touring Coach, which itself begins life as a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van chassis. “The original Astrovan played an important role in America’s Space Shuttle era. Many will remember seeing that familiar silver bullet exterior heading out to the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center. We’re excited for Astrovan II to continue Airstream’s part in helping put Americans into orbit,” said Bob Wheeler, CEO and president of Airstream.

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Source: Ars Technica

Renault launches hydrogen range-extender in electric Kangoo and Master vans

Renault hydrogen van

Hydrogen fuel cell acts as range-extender to give up to three times the range of regular battery-electric variants

Renault has revealed its first hydrogen vehicles, the Kangoo ZE Hydrogen and Master ZE Hydrogen, making it the first manufacturer to bring hydrogen-powered vans to production.

However, while cars such as the Hyundai Nexo and Toyota Mirai are powered solely by a hydrogen fuel cell, Renault is using a fuel cell as a range-extender to the vans’ existing battery-electric powertrain.

While the Kangoo ZE and Master ZE will still be available in regular battery-electric form, the range-extender fuel cell variants add up to three times more range, with both offering at least 217 miles. Renault said another advantage of hydrogen is that refilling [of the hydrogen tank] takes only five to 10 minutes.

The Kangoo ZE Hydrogen will land later this year and the larger Master ZE Hydrogen in 2020. Right-hand-drive versions of the models aren’t yet confirmed for the UK; a Renault spokesman said the decision depends on demand.

It’s likely the technology will extend to other Renault vehicles, although the French firm wouldn’t comment on such a move.

Denis Le Vot, boss of light commercial vehicles at Renault-Nissan, said: “These vehicles provide professionals with all the range they require for their long-distance journeys as well as record charging times.

“And the advantages do not stop there, as the Master ZE Hydrogen and Kangoo ZE Hydrogen can run on decarbonised energy that respects the environment while offering all the comfort of electric driving.”

The Kangoo ZE Hydrogen will be priced from €48,300 (£41,537) in France; Master ZE Hydrogen pricing is yet to be confirmed.

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Source: Autocar Online

2020 BMW M3: rear end design seen undisguised

2020 BMW M3 rear - image published by Evolve Automotive

Tuning firm Evolve Automotive posted this image to its Facebook page

BMW’s upcoming M3, spied without camouflage, will weigh less, be more rigid and have more power than outgoing model

The next-generation BMW M3 – due for launch in 2020 – appears to have been photographed undisguised for the first time, according to an image posted to Facebook by BMW tuning specialist Evolve Automotive

The car photographed looks to be on the assembly line and the image reveals previously unconfirmed elements of the model’s design. Key changes over the standard 3 Series include the addition of a subtle rear spoiler, extended wheel arches, black plastic rear trim and reshaped bootlid. Four large exhaust pipes also feature and will be housed in a downforce-enhancing rear diffuser, which appears to not yet have been installed. 

The hotly anticipated performance saloon is expected to use an extensively updated version of BMW’s twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine, producing around 500bhp. 

Officials at the 2018 Paris motor show, including company boss Harald Krüger, confirmed that a new M3 was under development, although they declined to give details. It is understood, however, that engineers have been set the target of giving the new M3 a power boost over the M3 CS, which produced 454bhp. 

New BMW 3 Series launched with renewed driver focus

It is believed that the additional performance is likely to come from the use of a water injection system, like that used by the M4 GTS, to enable reduced cylinder temperatures for more efficient running. The only obstacle to this system being employed is believed to have centred on the issue of effective packaging, but that has now thought to have been overcome. 

The additional weight of the water injection system is minimal and unlikely to compromise BMW’s goal of making the car lighter than the 1585kg M3 CS. This is thanks to the savings already made by the basic structure of the new 3 Series, as well as the potential benefits of using carbonfibre parts, including the roof.

The use of a four-wheel drive system similar to that used on the M5, and any form of electrification is believed to have been vetoed because they would add too much weight, complexity and cost. However, persistent reports suggest that the 2020 M3 could be the final M model to be launched without some form of electrification; something made necessary by the increasing priority of meeting fleet-average CO2 targets.

There are no further details about the new M3’s potential performance, but the lighter, more powerful car will eclipse the current M3 CS’s 0-62mph time of 3.9sec. It will be sold with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or an optional eight-speed automatic, but the auto will enable better performance figures thanks to a built-in electronic launch control system. 

The M3 will also benefit from the increased rigidity offered by its part-aluminium, part-high-strength steel CLAR underpinnings. This is a key reason behind BMW already making class-leading claims about the dynamic abilities of the base 3 Series. The regular car’s wider track and uprated suspension systems should also give engineers the foundations for a more dynamically capable M3.

As well as offering greater performance potential, the stiffer chassis should reduce the amount of vibration transmitted into the car to enhance overall refinement. It should also allow engineers to adopt softer spring rates to give the M3 a more compliant ride in its most comfortable mode, without hampering the car’s overall dynamic ability. 

Inside, the next M3 will follow in the M5’s footsteps by swapping its dashtop infotainment screen for one that’s more tidily integrated into the dashboard. The iDrive system is expected to retain a rotary control knob because it has been praised for its ease of use in current cars. The M3 will also gain significantly more advanced driver assist features, but former sales and marketing boss Ian Robertson has hinted to Autocar that most BMW models will steer clear of the full autonomous hardware suites to be used on i5 and i7 due from 2021. M models, in particular, will still possess a very driver-centric character.

The M3 will continue to form the basis for the technically identical M4 coupé, while M-worked 3 Series models will lend their hardware to a two-door M440i M Performance coupé and M440d M Performance coupé. These models are also due to arrive in showrooms in 2020 and are part of a 26-model onslaught of M division-tuned cars that aims to more extensively rival the growing ranges of Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport.

It remains uncertain whether the car will feature an active rear-wheel steering system to enhance agility and boost high-speed stability. Although it is under consideration, the business case for developing the system for the M3 only is believed to be under debate.

The car, now testing on public roads in development form and due to go on sale in 2020, would inherit its active steering technology from the 5 Series and 7 Series. If the hardware does make the cut and is fitted to the super-saloon, the M3 would be the only car in the upcoming 3 Series range to feature it.

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Source: Autocar Online

New Audi A8 L TFSIe plug-in hybrid: specs detailed

Audi reveals more information on its petrol-electric A8 limo ahead of orders opening at the end of the year

Audi has released more technical detail for the plug-in hybrid, long-wheelbase A8 ahead of it going on sale towards the end of this year. 

The Mercedes S560 e rival is the first A8 to adopt a plug-in powertrain, itself set to be used in the upcoming plug-in Bentley Flying Spur. Its 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine (with a petrol particulate filter) puts out 335bhp and 369lb ft of torque. It’s mated to an electric motor that’s mounted within the clutch assembly and provides another 134bhp and 258lb ft.

The resulting combined system output for the A8 L TFSIe is 443bhp and 516lb ft of torque, sent to all four wheels permanently. That’s enough for the 5.3m limo to do the 0-62mph sprint in 4.9 sec. Audi claims that peak torque arrives from just 1,250rpm.

Also claimed is the ability to drive at up to 83mph in electric-only mode, with a WLTP-certified EV-mode range of up to 28 miles. The 14.1kWh battery is positioned under the boot floor, and although no charging time via a plug is quoted, Audi says its energy recuperation system can restore up to 80kW under braking. 

Quoted fuel economy for the A8 L TFSIe is put at 113mpg, though this is measured using the NEDC standard. Efficiency boosting tech includes a heat pump, which uses waste heat from high-voltage components to provide heat for the four-zone climate control, and a system to ensure electric power is used intelligently if a route is programmed into the navigation. Customers can even pre-programme the ventilated seats and heated wheel for departure. 

First deliveries of the A8 L TFSIe begin at the start of next year. It joins its smaller sibling, the A6 55 TFSI e, alongside plug-in versions of the Q5 and A7 Sportback, all of which were first revealed at March’s Geneva motor show.

Read more:

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Source: Autocar Online

Promoted | Why the automotive industry needs more women

We need to stop thinking in terms of ‘male and female’ and start widening our views on diversity, according to CDK Global Customer Experience Director Kim Petit

Great British Women sponsor CDK Global wants to see greater diversity driving change in the automotive sector, as Customer Experience Director Kim Petit explains

The automotive industry has traditionally been dominated by men, but as this year’s Great British Women – Rising Stars event proved, this is changing. Career opportunities for women in the automotive sector are increasing.

Women are well represented across the automotive industry in marketing and HR, but I suspect that many of us choose these roles more because of the nature of the work, rather than because they are in the automotive sector.

Equally, the traditional perception is that male employees chose the automotive industry due to an interest in engineering and technology. But that need not be the case. For many roles, the sector isn’t as crucial as the job itself. 

A fresh approach to diversity

We need to stop thinking in terms of ‘male and female’ and start widening our views on diversity, with a duty to ensure that doors are open to allow change to happen.

Greater diversity – whether gender, race, age, learning approach or communication style – benefits our businesses and our industry by creating a fresh dynamic, bringing different perspectives, new ideas and innovative thinking to the table. 

This flows through to how we develop our products and communicate with our customers (who are diverse themselves). It’s worth noting that female buying habits are changing, with women now responsible for 45% of new car purchases.

By harnessing diversity, we will continue to innovate, produce, sell and service cars for all the drivers out there – female and male.

CDK Global: encouraging change

At CDK Global we believe it’s vital to be inclusive to all those with the right attitude and skill sets required to help our business be a success, and we support initiatives that attract diverse talent – especially at a time of huge tech disruption.

CDK Global has plenty of female employees in a number of departments, but I would like to see even more women branch into traditionally male domains – such as sales or engineering.

For those looking to break into the automotive industry, a key thing to remember is that a wide range of sectors offer highly relevant and transferable skills. The automotive world is diverse, exciting and always evolving, so individuals looking to get into the industry need to be adaptable, driven and comfortable with change. 

The automotive sector continually produces exciting creative and technology-based opportunities. It would be great to see more women considering this sector as an area that’s right for them.



Source: Autocar Online

New Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle makes public debut

Toyota Mirai concept at Tokyo motor show - front

Bold concept, set to go on sale in 2020, previews imminent second-generation hydrogen-powered vehicle

Toyota‘s dramatic new Mirai Concept, which previews the second-generation version of its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, has been shown in public for the first time at the Tokyo motor show. A production version of the car will go on sale in late 2020.

The new hydrogen-powered concept is described as “a final-stage development model of the second-generation Mirai” and Toyota promises a major step forward in fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technology. It claims the new model offers a 30% increase in driving range over the current model, which has a range of just over 300 miles, along with improved driving performance.

The new Mirai Concept is built on Toyota’s latest TNGA platform and features dramatic new styling, including a revamped front with a bold grille and a sweeping, coupé-esque rear. Toyota claims increased body rigidity and a lower centre of gravity than the original Mirai.

The concept measures 4935mm long and 1885mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2920mm. It sits on 20in wheels and retains the four-door saloon layout of the original Mirai, which was launched in 2014.

The interior has also been reworked. It features a 12.3in central touchscreen and a digital instrument display, with many of the controls moved to the centre of the dashboard. Notably, the Mirai now has five seats instead of the original’s four, which, Toyota says, has been enabled by a reworking of the hydrogen fuel cell configuration.

Aside from the claimed increase in range, Toyota has not given specific details of development work done on the fuel cell powertrain. But it says the system, including the fuel cell stack, has been entirely redesigned and offers increased hydrogen storage. It also claims the work on the system ensures a smoother, linear response, along with improved handling.

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Source: Autocar Online

Autocar readers visit Mini Oxford plant for exclusive Paddy Hopkirk Q&A

Autocar subscriber event at Mini Oxford plant - lead

UK manufacturing base played host to Autocar subscribers as rally legend Hopkirk talked us through his career behind the wheel

To judge by the 1000 gleaming Minis that roll daily from the famous Cowley car factory, nowadays rechristened Plant Oxford by its BMW owners, you’d have very little clue to the fact that these premises are the site of the UK’s oldest car factory.

Neither would you know that the first owner, William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, converted an old military academy to make cars here – and adopted Henry Ford’s mass-production techniques there for his Bullnose Morris Oxford cars just four years after they were more famously introduced in Dearborn.

These facts, along with the knowledge that Plant Oxford has been making motor vehicles continuously all these years, were just part of the fascinating knowledge shared with a 60-strong group of Autocar loyalists who joined our latest Subscriber Extra event on a recent Friday morning.

First they toured the factory’s body shop and final assembly plant and then they met Monte Carlo Rally legend and Mini hero Paddy Hopkirk – who gave a highly amusing talk about his extraordinary life and times before taking 20 minutes of questions that were just as lively. The session ended with a tasty lunch.

The Subscriber Extra party, accompanied by several members of the Autocar staff, had gathered in a special part of the Plant Oxford visitors’ centre (handily placed for the shop) before minibuses took them into the heart of the vast works, which nowadays contains more robots than people.

Highlights were understanding the complex organisation of the place – which aims to make a car every 67 seconds and depends on millions of just-in-time parts being delivered every day. BMW’s detailed quality controls were always prominent: Mini has always been well known for durability and classy manufacturing standards.

General opinion seemed to be that the event was a smash, with the irrepressible Paddy’s presentation a major highlight. Some of our Plant Oxford guests had previously been with us for the Subscriber Extra Bentley concept launch in Crewe, and were soon keenly quizzing Autocar event organiser Lydia Banton about the site and nature of our next event. The truth – as Lydia made clear at the time – is that we have several options but no firm plan. But we’ll know the details very soon and they’ll be published online as soon as we do. Of course, all suggestions will be gratefully received.

Meanwhile, anyone who missed our Mini tour can arrange their own by visiting www.visit-mini.com. It’s easy and it’s great.

Want to get involved with our next event? Make sure to subscribe to the magazine for all the information.

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Source: Autocar Online

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