Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Climate change hits Mars

Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, the
Sunday Times has reported.

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s.
This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.

The mechanism at work on Mars appears, however, to be different from that on Earth.

One of the researchers, Lori Fenton, believes variations in radiation and temperature across the surface of the Red Planet are generating strong winds.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, she suggests that such winds can stir up giant dust storms, trapping heat and raising the planet’s temperature.

Fenton’s team unearthed heat maps of the Martian surface from Nasa’s Viking mission in the 1970s and compared them with maps gathered more than two decades later by Mars Global Surveyor.

They found there had been widespread changes, with some areas becoming darker.

When a surface darkens it absorbs more heat, eventually radiating that heat back to warm the thin Martian atmosphere: lighter surfaces have the opposite effect.

The temperature differences between the two are thought to be stirring up more winds, and dust, creating a cycle that is warming the planet.

MGs in production again at Longbridge

The first MG cars to be built under Nanjiing Automobile Corporation (NAC) control started rolling off an assembly line at the Longbridge factory today.

Welding, painting and final assembly of the revised TF model takes place at Longbridge, with a revised Euro IV-compliant version of the K-Series engine and many other components sourced elsewhere.

The cars are set to be on sale before the end of the year.

The Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) spent £50m buying the MG brand, the manufacturing rights to its range of vehicles and MG Rover's assets.

NAC's chief executive, Yu Jian Wei, said MG had a "glorious past" and Longbridge had an "irreplaceable role in the MG project" and "This is the re-birth of MG."

The revised TF has had some cosmetic changes, mainly to the front bumper and the headlights, but nothing mechanical. The priority was to get it on sale, and to get the assembly procedures and quality control up to scratch, before evolving the car, he said.

Yu Jian Wei told a press conference after the opening ceremony: "In the not too distant future you will be seeing an upgraded TF, a hard top TF and maybe a whole new product.

"The first group of dealers are being selected. There are many applications, both from previous dealers and from new dealers that would like to become MG dealers."

Mike Whitby, the leader of Birmingham City Council, told the assembled dignitaries and journalists: "I was present here on that fearful night when Rover collapsed. The sense of loss was profound. Many thought that today was a day that would never come. We were told that Longbridge had no future as a manufacturing centre by one or two Jeremiahs.

"Today we see the start of the process that will see the return to quality manufacturing on this site."

NAC says it plans to build 15,000 cars a year at Longbridge in an unspecified "first phase"; not many compared to the 100,000 cars that were produced before the plant shut in 2005, and to the 200,000 MGs that the corporation is planning to build at its plant in China.

So far only 130 jobs have been created on a 469-acre site that once employed more than 20,000. When MG Rover collapsed into administration about 6,000 Longbridge workers lost their jobs.

Trade and industry minister Margaret Hodge welcomed the relaunch as "good news for the Midlands, and good news for UK car manufacturing".

Friday, May 25, 2007

Honda nearing capacity at Swindon

Honda's UK factory in Swindon, which builds the Civic and CR-V models, will be working at its peak output of 250,000 cars a year by the end of 2007.

An extra 700 workers have been recruited, bringing the total workforce to 5,000.

Honda is using the Swindon team's expertise to help with the expansion of the company's factory in Turkey, which is gearing up to produce 50,000 cars by the end of the year.

This will bring Honda's total production in Europe up to 300,000.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Nissan's good news for Sunderland

Two bits of good news recently from Nissan and their award-winning car-making facility in Sunderland.

First, the company has announced that thousands of new jobs are to be created through the building of a new £4.5 million logistics centre for processing and distributing parts.

Working with Sunderland City Council and the One North East development agency, in connection with the plan the company will also make improvements to surrounding roads, and build a business park on a 45-acre site to include office space, a hotel, a car showroom and industrial units.

It's hoped around 4,000 new jobs will be created in the area.

Second, it was also announced this week that the Sunderland site - Britain's largest car plant - is now exporting two of the cars it makes back to Japan.

Since March the factory has been building Qashqais for Nissan's home market - the first such move in a decade. But the crossover hatchback has now been joined by the Micra C+C.

An initial batch of 1,500 cars will go on sale in Japan in July.

More than 23,000 British-designed C+Cs have been exported to more than 45 markets since production began 18 months ago.

Nissan's European production chief Trevor Mann said: "Coming so soon after Qashqai, this is great news for our plant.

"To have two of our products competing over there speaks volumes both about the quality of our employees, and the cars they produce."

Nissan's investment and activities in the UK epitomise what politicians put at risk if they succumb to vocal eco-extremists pushing the idea that car users should be hit with punishing tax rises.

That can only make Britain an increasingly hostile environment for cars ... and, inevitably, those businesses and thousands of jobs connected with this country's car industry.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Four million Landies and counting

The four-millionth Land Rover rolled off the production lines this week at the company's factory in Solihull.

The landmark vehicle was a Discovery 3 model, and Land Rover are celebrating by donating it to the Born Free Foundation wildlife conservation charity.

Patron Joanna Lumley (pictured) collected the car on behalf of the charity, which will be used in the UK in projects rescuing stranded or abandoned marine mammals such as grey seals.

Will Travers, Born Free chief executive, said, "This important vehicle will enable us to carry out important frontline conservation and animal welfare missions at will.

"Without Land Rover’s support we simply would not be able to reach some of the off-road remote destinations or tackle some of the rescues that are a vital part of our work.”

Born Free has been one of Land Rover’s Global Sponsorship Partners since 2002. The sponsorship includes financial and vehicle support in the UK, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

In 2006 Land Rover’s support contributed to the rescue and relocation of three lions from a circus in France to Shamwari in South Africa.

Dare we suggest that these charitable activities by Land Rover are likely to be a far greater contribution to helping our environment than most of those who whinge about 4x4s have ever made.

Land Rover has now been building its off-roaders for 59 years, crossing the three-million mark in 2001. The company is currently building around 700 cars a day, employing 10,000 people directly in Solihull, and helping to sustain over 50,000 more jobs in the local and national economy. The company exports 78% of all production.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Censorship row over global warming documentary

Leading scientists have moved to block the DVD release of the controversial Channel 4 documentary 'The Great Global Warming Swindle'.

The programme cast doubt on the science behind popular theories on global warming - claiming climate change has nothing to do with man's actions.

In a letter to the programme's producers and the television regulatory authority OFCOM, 37 global warming experts asked for the documentary to be banned unless 'factual inaccuracies' were edited out, claiming repeats of the show would 'not be in the public's interest'.

In response, the show's producer Martin Durkin claimed the scientists wanted the programme banned only because they "have staked their reputations and built their careers on global warming".

Other observers have drawn comparisons between the scientists' letter and Soviet-style censorship.

The only real fact of the matter is that, whether these scientists agree with the claims made in the documentary or not, they were well-argued claims, by credible people - scientists and leading environmentalists.

This attempt to block such opposing arguments being made available more widely, so that people can make up their own minds on the issue - the idea that humans are causing global warming having had near monopoly coverage in the media for some considerable time - can only enhance suspicions that the science sustaining the man-made global warming theory is indeed as weak as the documentary claims.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

London council sets controversial clamping targets

A London borough has set new targets for traffic wardens that will see more vehicles clamped and more drivers facing parking fines.

The borough of Kensington and Chelsea has set a minimum target for 2007 in its contract with National Car Parks (NCP) of 306,000 parking tickets and 15,000 vehicles clamped, according to the Guardian.

Minimum targets? How can a public authority legislate for the minimum number of people who should be punished for breaking a law? What next ... minimum targets for the number of people who should be imprisoned for murder?

Under the terms of the deal, wardens will have to issue at least 840 tickets and clamp as many as 36 vehicles each day - or face paying a fine to the council.

Lobby groups and motorists' organisations are calling for better government regulation of parking enforcement and the companies who carry it out amid concerns that targets will lead to unfair ticketing and clamping. At present, parking firms are only subject to voluntary rather than statutory guidelines.

The British Parking Association has launched an investigation into the Kensington and Chelsea contract to determine whether it breaches the organisation's guidelines.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lotus joins green car-makers

Norfolk sportscar firm Lotus is joining the ranks of car-makers making a significant contribution to reducing the impact of their activities on the environment by building three giant wind turbines on its test track.

The windmills will harness wind-power to generate zero-emissions electricity for the Lotus factory, offices, design rooms and engine test facility.

So much power will be generated, in fact, that the excess will be fed into the national grid to also power local homes.

The announcement comes on top of recent initiatives and investment by a number of other car-makers aimed at making their products and industry kinder to the environment.

This illustrates once again just how unreasonable the demands by eco-extremists to hit the car industry and car-users with excessive 'green' taxes are.

Friday, May 04, 2007

MG set for UK comeback

Nanjing Automobile, the Chinese buyers of MG, have announced plans to bring the TF soft-top sportcar back to the UK.

Production of the TF is already underway in China and Nanjing hopes to start importing bodies and parts into the UK for assembly at MG Rover's old Longbridge plant.

115 people are still employed at the plant, with Nanjing planning to increase this to 800 as other revised MG models are launched.

Restyled versions of the MG ZT and ZS models, to be called the MG 7 and MG 5 respectively, are also on the way, alongside a significantly revised MG ZR, which will be re-badged the MG 3.

The MG 7 is expected to be the first to arrive, by the Autumn, with the 5 and 3 following in 2008.