Fleet News

Thinking CAP


Martin Ward scours the globe for the week’s insider fleet intelligence

MONDAY

Back to the IDIADA test facility near Barcelona to see and drive an all-new car due later this year.

The security to get into the place is just like going through an airport, with detectors and searches to ensure no cameras can be taken in.

This track is used by most manufacturers to extensively test all aspects of a new car, as well as modify and improve models in their current range.

While we were there this week, there were seven different manufacturers testing future vehicles in a series of different operations, from long-term high-speed runs to constant brake testing, which goes on non-stop for days.

There were also motorcycle manufacturers present who were sampling tyres to see which ones suited next year’s models the best.

There were also a couple of Japanese engineers trying a variety of door mirrors on a rented van – they kept making various adjustments to them so we could only assume they were trying to reduce wind noise or improve the vehicle’s aerodynamics.

Also at IDIADA was a six-door black limo being thrown around the track by some hooligan – I think he was trying to turn the thing over.

The driver seemed to be enjoying it – all in a day’s work, I guess – and it is this sort of extreme testing which is making our lives safer.

 

WEDNESDAY

Someone asked me if exporting new cars from the UK is more likely now due to the strong Euro against our humble pound.

Now, that would be an interesting turnaround after we were buying cheap imports from Belgium and Portugal not that long ago.

I’ve asked a couple of manufacturers if they could supply left-hand drive vehicles for export, and it seems to be a resounding ‘yes’.

But the equipment and trim levels would have to be the same as UK-registered cars as they cannot supply the same specification as the destination country.

However, bear in mind that our cars are generally better specced anyway, and those in Euroland could be on to a winner.

The dealers in Folkestone and Dover had better start brushing up on their French and German.

THURSDAY

Went to the very wet, cold and foggy island of Ibiza to drive the SEAT Ibiza five-door.

It was the worst weather the island had seen for a very long time, but this did not spoil the Ibiza first drive.

The new Ibiza is the first car SEAT has produced since Erich Schmitt joined the company as its president in 2006.

His attention to detail, learned at Audi over a spell of 16 years, has filtered down to SEAT and the improved quality is evident throughout the new car, with the interior being especially good.

This new hatch’s design is stylish and very different to the current Ibiza – it is slightly larger, which increases rear legroom.

We drove the car on a variety of wet roads, and it handled perfectly, feeling safe and solid.

The new car is due to go on sale mid-July, with prices, spec and badging policy expected to be announced some time this week, although SEAT has said prices will start at £8,995.

A three-door Sports Coupé is expected early in 2009.
 

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