Fleet News

Thinking CAP: September 18

CAP manufacturer relationships manager Martin Ward scours the globe for the week's insider fleet intelligence

Monday

Received a press release from Honda announcing that its new ‘global hybrid’ model has now been officially named the Insight, reviving its original hybrid’s name from 1999.

Although we have had hybrid cars from Honda, Toyota and Lexus for some years now, I think the Insight is about to set new standards – it will be more affordable and will revolutionalise the way we look and feel about hybrid cars.

This will be the first of many to come and, with technology gathering pace, it might not be that long before hybrid power is the norm.

We will hopefully get the chance to drive the Insight in the next few weeks.

Tuesday

Down to the Bentley factory in Crewe for our annual meeting to discuss used cars, new products and changes to existing models.

Bentley confirmed it is going on a three-day week on the production lines due to the downturn in the markets, notably North America (which takes 40% of production), and the UK which takes 20%.

This short-term working will continue until the end of the year, when it will be reassessed.

This sounds really bad news, and it is, but Bentley has decided to cut production now, and not be left with new stock sat in showrooms.

While we all feel sorry for the staff, it is the wise decision for a long-term future.

Wednesday

Got the chance to drive the new Alfa Romeo MiTo and, although it was a German-registered, Italian-spec car, it gave a flavour of what is to come.

It is true to say that Alfa’s reputation has hampered sales, but looking at its statistics on quality, warranty claims and cost of warranty, it seems to be improving dramatically – but proving it to customers or the fleet industry won’t be easy.

After giving the MiTo an extensive test drive, it proved remarkably good. Its styling is fantastic and the interior quality is as good as the best of the rest.

The dealer network is still small, with 53 at the moment, hopefully rising to 60 by the end of next year.

Some left-hand drive MiTos will be available for viewing in showrooms from November, with first deliveries due mid-January – it’s certainly worth a look at.

Friday

A visit to BMW’s Bracknell HQ.

Out of all the cars we discussed, probably the most important for the fleet industry is the arrival, at last, of the 318d automatic.

I drove one around Bracknell and on the motorway – it is quiet and refined and the six-speed gearbox is a delight.

I saw a pre-production 7 Series and, although I’ve seen one before, the more you see of it, the more different it becomes to the current model.

Some huge improvements have been made to the exterior styling, and the interior is just so much more luxurious.

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