Steering Column 27.03.09

Price hikes begin

Ford and Kia are two of the car companies planning to put up the prices of their new cars because of the continuing poor exchange rate on the UK pound.

Ford says all its cars will go up an average of 3.75 per cent from the end of this month while Kia’s rise is around three per cent except for the recently launched Soul and Magentis.

It is an interesting and difficult move for the companies at a time when new car sales figures have dropped through the floor due to the economic downturn. One way of trying to boost sales has been to drop prices so surely this is going to make things more difficult.

Ford of Britain managing director Nigel Sharp said: “Raising prices in such difficult times may seem counter-intuitive, but as a UK business with so many of our costs priced in Euros, we have no choice if we are to protect jobs and remain viable.”

Kia Motors (UK) managing director Paul Philpott said he had held off making the increase for as long as possible but there was no choice left.

“The increase we are making now will be kept to an absolute minimum and still main­tains Kia’s competitive position in the market.”

Both of these UK company leaders will be hugely regretting the move as it will potentially weaken their standing in the domestic market, though other companies are likely to be pushed into a similar position.

However, on a global scale, since the drop in new car sales is an international problem for manu­facturers, an increase in prices and a possible fall in trade limited to just Britain, may not be too bad for them.

But good news for Ford

The new Ford Fiesta is one of the most stylish cars in the world, according to a panel of international designers and design experts. It has been awarded a “red dot” by the Essen-based Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen.

An independent jury of 28 specialists from 19 countries have looked at the car’’s innovation, design and functioning and decided it had world-leading style and quality.

Ford looks on it as a potential marketing tool which, as you will have already read, it so desperately needs.

Cruiser bruiser

Toyota is preparing to launch a tough looking little “crossover” vehicle in May called the Urban Cruiser. Smaller than a RAV4 and as low to the ground as a standard road car, it does have a sort of SUV theme to the design and you can buy it with a four-wheel-drive system.

Environmental performance is top of the list of priorities for the five-door hatchback. The two-wheel-drive is kitted out with a 1.33-litre VVT-i petrol engine that puts out less than 130g/km of CO2 and can travel more than 50 miles on a gallon of unleaded.

The 4×4 has a 1.4-litre diesel engine which turns out almost the same amount of carbon dioxide and can run around 58mpg. That makes it, according to Toyota, the cleanest running all-wheel-drive in the world.

Both cars get a new six-speed transmission.

Having only seen photographs of the car, I think it looks great with bulging wheel-arches, a flat roof-line and some good-looking lights scowling out at the front.

Mike Grundon


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