The Toyota Corolla hatchback media test car now home to a Robin's nestI’m still keeping calm and carrying on sifting through the latest automotive news items and press releases pinging into my Inbox.

Whilst the COVIC-19 news is not good there are some brighter worthwhile snippets of information worth passing on.

New life goes on - Toyota Corolla proves reliant for Robins

We motoring journalists during the lockdown period are without test cars to evaluate and we cannot drive anywhere anyway. Many manufacturers such as Toyota have loaned out demonstration and media test cars to help the NHS Trust and similar welfare organisations during this critical coronavirus time. 

Toyota's Corolla press road test car now home to a Robin's nestHowever one test car, which had been returned to the Toyota Press Fleet garage in Crawley and was awaiting preparation just as the lockdown was applied, was a Toyota Corolla Excel 2.0-litre.

A family of Robins has chosen the rear wheel arch of the car to build a nest in to raise its young.  The silver coloured Corolla hatchback had returned to the press fleet from long term loan with Autocar magazine and was in a quiet corner of the outdoor car park of the press garage.

The nest was spotted by Toyota GB Press Fleet Manager, Graham Bothamley, who said: ‘I noticed a pile of leaves around the base of the rear wheel arch of the Corolla on the 12 April and discovered a nest full of eggs balanced on the top of the wheel. You’d have thought

the birds might have chosen one of our more famous cars such as the Lexus LFA or Toyota Supra but instead they chose the world’s best-selling model, the Corolla.’ 

Facing up to the task of re-starting vehicle production

Most vehicle manufacturers are busy getting ready to restart much needed revenue generating production. 

Ford is producing face masks in the U.K. and face shields at other Ford sites in Europe as part of initiatives to deliver a safe working environment for employees performing essential roles at Ford facilities in Europe during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Production of personal protective equipment is already underway at Ford facilities in the U.K., Germany, Spain and Romania. This is designed to ensure that Ford’s intention to restart initial production at most of its main continental European vehicle and engine plants this  week does not add to worldwide demand for such personal protective equipment.

Nissan’s Sunderland Plant, the UK’s largest car production facility suspended work on 17 March and they have just announced that production will not start in May but they aim to have a phased resumption in June. However for now volunteer employees at the facility have been busy making face masks and visors and Nissan has used their distribution network to distribute them to various NHS Trusts and other needy facilities.

Nissan donates mobile phone power packs to the NHS frontline employeesNissan Motor GB, the sales and marketing arm of the business, is supporting Lifeline-To-The- Frontline, a new initiative by British company Lifesaver to provide free portable and rechargeable power packs to NHS staff and frontline workers. The pocket-sized devices, charged with 100% renewable energy, help keep smartphones powered up and connected during worker shifts. Lifesaver has already provided 1,000 power packs from the first round of fundraising, with devices delivered to hospitals in London, Surrey, Hampshire, Yorkshire and Cheshire.

MINI is restarting production at their Plant Oxford facility they call ‘Home of MINI’ and one of the models coming off the production line will be the long awaited new MINI Electric priced from £24,400 after the Government’s Plug-In Grant has been applied. This is one of the many news cars I was scheduled to evaluate before the lockdown came into force. Hopefully I’ll catch up with it before too long. 

Volume car makers such as JLR, Honda, MINI, Toyota, Nissan, Aston Martin, Vauxhall and the BMW/MINI engine plants are all preparing in degrees of readiness to restart production with Bentley already starting limited production this week. The UK needs it to happen fast as there will be an estimated loss of at least £8.2bn to the industry if factories remain closed beyond May. 

UK’s automotive industry at standstill - April new vehicle sales very low

Background information from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows the automotive industry is a vital part of the UK economy worth £101 billion annually in global trade. With some 168,000 people employed directly in manufacturing and 823,000 across the wider automotive industry, it accounts for 14.4% of total UK export of goods and invests £3.75 billion each year in automotive R&D. More than 30 manufacturers build some 70 models of vehicle in the UK supported by 2,500 component providers and some of the world's most skilled engineers.

£35 million worth of cars parked in storage at a former airfield near BicesterFollowing steep falls in car, van and engine production in the UK in March came news this week from the SMMT that just 4,321 new cars were registered in April, the lowest monthly total since 1946. This was a 97.3% fall compared to April last year. Some of these new cars will have been registered by the industry as dealer and company car demonstration vehicles with new 20 registration plates. They will replace support vehicles released to the NHS Trusts, the Police and other frontline workers. Top car model in April was the all-electric Tesla 3 with 658 registrations followed by the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV and the new Vauxhall Corsa supermini sized hatchback. For the year to date the Ford Fiesta remains the top selling new car followed by the new VW Golf and Ford Focus.

However the UK’s light commercial vehicle registrations for April were even worse than cars with an 86.2% fall to just 3,387 units.  But a quirky result was the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van became the UK’s best-selling vehicle for the month with 814 vehicle registrations.  This was the first time a van has outsold the most popular passenger car in a single month since June 1990 when the new Ford Transit outsold the Ford Escort.

Meanwhile there are new cars stockpiled on former airfields throughout the country waiting to be delivered to dealerships and onwards to customers. Our picture, courtesy of  Chris Gorman/Daily Mail shows stored cars parked up at the former airfield at Upper Heyford near Bicester. 

Keeping Calm and Carrying On From Lexus

To help keep children and adults entertained during the lockdown Lexus UK has released two more templates to create paper models. This time they are of the Lexus LF-30 Electrified concept that was revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2019 and the latest Lexus UX 250h compact SUV as well.

lexus-ux-papercraft-templateSo stop cutting your hair and use the scissors for something more creative. Here is how to build your paper model

You’ll need access to a colour printer, some paper glue or double-sided tape, and a pair of scissors. This activity is recommended for older children; it should take about an hour to carefully put your model together.

First, download and print the high-resolution PDF of the instruction sheet and your chosen Lexus paper model using the images attached to this news item.

You could print the pdf document on A3 paper rather than A4, to make the building a little less fiddly with a larger model at the end.

  1. Using scissors, carefully cut out the template, being especially careful not to cut off the grey tabs (these are white on the UX version).
  2. Fold and glue all of these tabs so they adhere to the underside of the adjacent panel – doing so will pull the car into the three-dimensional shape that should resemble your chosen Lexus.

Using a ruler when folding will help ensure a perfectly straight folded edge.

Lexus UK invites people to share images of their paper models on its social media channels:

Twitter: @LexusUK, Facebook: @LexusUK and Instagram: @LexusUK. 

UK tops EU Lexus sales markets

More news from Lexus, the UK is the strongest market in Europe for their self-charging hybrid electric cars. The UK’s customers have bought 123,700 of them since the introduction of the first RX 400h in 2004. That figure is more than a quarter of the total 431,372 Lexus models sold in the EU since then.

Around the world almost 1.75-million Lexus hybrids have been sold, part of the 15-million sales of Toyota’s global hybrid models which started in 1997 with the Prius.

At the end of this year Lexus will introduce their first all-electric model – the UX 300e 

More on-line services for buying a new car

At the time of writing car dealership’s showrooms remain shut although there are several companies offering real-time on-line virtual tours of new models with the facility with ask questions and then order and pay functions plus some delivery services.

Renault UK has now added to their www.renault.co.uk website Virtual Tour facility an On-Line Stock Reservation feature for all their passenger car models and Pro+ commercial vehicles.

Renault launch their click and reserve on-line buying toolCustomers simply log-on, select the model and specification from the vehicles available in stock and then they are put in touch with their chosen dealer to complete the purchase through to delivery.

Meanwhile at Mitsubishi Motors its virtual business as usual with their Mitsubishi Buy on Line facility. Customers can browse the model range, specify their exact model of choice, trade in their current vehicle and arrange finance all from the comfort and health safety of their own home.

With the showroom lock-down likely to continue for a while longer Mitsubishi until the end of June are offering customers a chance to reserve their model for a £99 fee. This is reduced from their normal on-line cost of £350 and includes free home delivery of the new vehicle and collection of the trade-in.

These latest on-line facilities are a quick fix to the car sales process but in the longer term, if they pull in punters will they become the preferred long-term way to buy a new or used vehicle? Manufacturers might see their dealer network outlets of the future mainly only being involved in the delivery and servicing processes. 

Finally Paws for Thought

Dogs these days tend to be pampered pets. In the past dogs were still pets but they were also useful doing anything from herding sheep to helping the Police. Now we have families, or couplers/singles with loads of dogs, some it has to be said are no more than fashion accessories.

SEAT in the UK have just undertaken a 2,000 respondent survey of dog owning motorists.

SEAT's dog-gone travel advice - do I look good in thisAccording to their replies dogs help us Brits to be better drivers. We take more care driving with a dog in our car said 54% of all respondents and it was even higher at 69% for drivers aged 18-24 years. But for older drivers of 55 years of age and above - it was only 42%.

But for all age groups nine out of 10 dog-owning drivers didn’t know about laws potentially covering travelling with dogs in a car or the maximum penalty was £5,000 and nine points on their licence. The law comes under Rule 57 of the Highway Code, Driving Without Due Care and Attention, so you could be pulled over if an animal is not secure within a car. This is more likely to be applied if your dog has caused or contributed to you having an accident.  A belt harness which uses the seat belt anchorage points, a pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are suggested ways to travel safely with your pampered pouches and of course SEAT’s accessory department has all those items for sale.

Stay safe, stay locked in if you can but hopefully we are now on the road to recovery. Miles Better News Agency 

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