Review of 2011 car news and car developments

"The biggest stories from 2011"

Whilst we would like to be upbeat and positive about 2011 we find it hard to come up with much positive news. Overall, manufacturers are still seeing a major slump in new car sales. 2010 was a bad year for car makers and 2011 didn't prove to be any better with car sales down 4.4% on the previous year (figures released by the RMI). Fleet car sales did show a minor improvement which helped prop up this figure but the reality remains that the registration of privately owned new cars was actually down 14%.

Rising fuel costs are really putting the squeeze on the motorists budget but there is little incentive to go out and buy a more fuel efficient car because of the hefty outlay required. Most motorists will only save around £500 a year by upgrading to a  fuel efficient car or hybrid, but this will require a large capital outlay and when depreciation is factored in there is little argument to warrant changing your car.

2011 was not a brilliant year for car makers, there was still very much a recession going on and this wasn't helped by high fuel prices.

Fuel prices in the UK have risen by around 4-5 pence per litre over the year and the trend is upwards, and as we insist, the economy is driven by fuel prices due to the knock on effect of goods and raw material delivery and commuting. We are seeing people making fewer journeys and there is an increased awareness to drive economically. Our MPG calculator has never been more popular with many users reporting a large fuel saving by changing their driving style and following our fuel saving tips.

Other countries too are being hit hard with high fuel prices. The scarcity of oil and increasing demand for it is one of the main drivers of this high price. Fuel efficient vehicles and hybrids are failing to capture the public imagination although new cars are getting more and more economical.

With the car market so stagnant we have seen little innovation or notable new models. Crossover vehicles like the Qashqai and Duke seem to be gaining popularity with a record breaking year for Nissans production plant in Sunderland. The new Nissan GTR improves an already superb car and we can't wait to try out the increased power and refinements announced in the new model.

There were some interesting announcements for us to look forward to in 2012. We can't wait to see the Audi A1 Quattro and hope that Audi release a right hand drive version for the UK market. The Toyota FT-86 II concept is also looking like an interesting proposition with a collaboration between Subaru and Toyota, and it will be interesting to see what a little bit of engine tuning can tweak from this power plant. It was also a rough year for Toyota with an embarrassing recall required of 1.5 million cars due to a brake defect in the late part of 2010.

Renault have continued to come up with some pretty good hatches in their Renaultsport range and have gained a good reputation for providing fun cars that are easy to own and run.

It was also the year that Lotus announced an interesting line up of new cars which will hopefully relaunch the company and put them right at the cutting edge of performance car design. The Lotus Elise Club racer is a fantastic car to drive along with the Renaultsport Megane 265 Trophy edition, but our choice for car of the year has to be the  new BMW 1M Coupe, which provides a great package of handling and power with a large sprinkling of fun thrown in.

The year ended with the bankruptcy of Saab a sad and poignant reminder of how fragile the automotive industry is at the moment. Most car makers are feeling the pinch and some have been radically restructured to avoid bankruptcy.

Looking at car sales figures we can't be optimistic for the future. If people are not buying new cars then they will also be looking to save money in other areas which is not good for a struggling economy. Car sales did seem to be slightly stronger in the last quarter of 2011 which gives a glimmer of hope, but rather than looking forward to seeing the light at the end of a tunnel, it will probably just turn out to be an oncoming train!

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