Motor insurance premiums hit record high, as cars go hi tech

engine being repaired in workshop

Car insurance premiums in the UK have hit a record high, due partly to cars’ increasingly complex electronics making repairs more expensive.

The average annual comprehensive policy cost £462 in the last three months of 2016, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

Previously the highest figure was £443 in the Spring of 2012.

The rise comes in spite of government attempts to limit compensation payments and cut court costs.

One reason for the increase is a rise in the cost of repairing cars that have been in accidents, because of their increasingly sophisticated electronics.

Buying in spare parts is also getting more expensive, due to the weakness of sterling.

The average repair bill has risen by 32% over the last three years to £1,678, the ABI said.


The ABI warned that premiums were likely to increase further, if the government went ahead with plans to review the so-called discount rate.

When accident victims are given a lump sum in compensation, the sum is discounted to make up for the extra investment return they are likely to receive.

Since 2001 the discount rate has been 2.5% – based on investment returns from government bonds.

If that rate is reduced, insurance companies will have to pay out more – thus increasing premiums.

“The sudden decision to review the discount rate has the potential to turn a drama into a crisis, with a significant cut throwing fuel on the fire in terms of premiums,” said Rob Cummings, the ABI’s head of motor and liability.


The government said it would make an announcement as soon as possible.

“The Lord Chancellor has decided to review the discount rate to ensure personal injury claimants are fairly compensated,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice.

“Due to ongoing consultation it is not yet possible to announce the review’s outcome.”

The cost of insurance has also risen because of a series of increases to Insurance Premium Tax (IPT).

IPT went up from 6% to 9.5% in 2015, to 10% in 2016, and will rise to 12% in June 2017.

Personal injury claims, such as whiplash, have also become more expensive, rising by 2.3% over the last year, the ABI said.

However, the government is currently to cap compensation payments to accident victims, which it says could reduce annual premiums by £40 a year.

It also wants more disputes settled in the small claims courts, which would reduce costs for insurance companies.

Mexico minister signals changes to rules of origin in NAFTA talks

MEXICO CITY — Mexico, the United States and Canada could overhaul rules about a product’s country of origin in a renegotiation of NAFTA in order to strengthen regional supply chains, the Mexican economy minister said on Thursday.

Mexican officials told Reuters last month the “rules of origin” in the North American Free Trade Agreement were likely to form a major part of talks to renegotiate the 1994 accord among the three countries.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said following his initial discussions last week in Washington with U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, that the U.S. position on how to revamp the treaty was becoming “very clear.”

“They want to strengthen the value chains in North America and this means we’ll have to conduct a very thorough review of the treaty’s rules of origin,” Guajardo told Mexican radio.

Trump on Thursday reiterated his concerns about NAFTA and said he would like to speed up talks to either renegotiate or replace the deal.

Rules of origin set out where products are sourced from, and Mexican officials say that making them stricter could force companies in North America to use more regional content in support of Trump’s plan to create more U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Some adjustments have been made to the NAFTA rules of origin in the past, and Mexicans familiar with ongoing discussions say the upcoming talks could tighten the rules in the auto sector, which has been a point of particular concern to Trump.

Guajardo also noted that it made sense to include labor and environmental rules in a renegotiated NAFTA, which he insisted would be a three-way discussion, in spite of worries that Trump could try to push for bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada.

Guajardo said he had discussed the point with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and the country’s natural resources minister, Jim Carr, who is visiting Mexico this week.

“Their position is that this a trilateral negotiation, and we will keep working in a trilateral framework,” he said.

Mexico’s government said on Wednesday it expected formal discussions on reworking NAFTA to begin after the start of May, following a 90-day consultation process with the private sector.

Low-end Chinese cars? Think bigger

DETROIT — The first Chinese automakers to enter the United States will not target the bottom end of the market with econo-cars, one China expert predicted Thursday.

Instead, they will sell small batches of Tesla-style electric vehicles to well-heeled enthusiasts, predicts Michael Dunne, president of the Hong Kong-based consulting firm Dunne Automotive.

“Aren’t Chinese companies supposed to be low-cost competitors that will come in with $10,000 cars?” Dunne asked during a presentation to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit. “No, they’re coming in with premium electric vehicles.”

In recent years, mass-market automakers such as BYD Auto Co., Guangzhou Automobile Group and Great Wall Motor Co. have announced plans to enter the U.S. light-vehicle market.

But they subsequently put their plans on hold, while others — such as Wangxiang Group, Faraday Future and Lucid Motors — are moving ahead with U.S. production plans.

Wanxiang, a chassis component supplier with a network of U.S. factories, may be farthest along. In 2014, the company acquired the assets of bankrupt Fisker Automotive and renamed it Karma. The company will launch its first model, the $130,000 Revero plug-in hybrid, later this year.

Last month, Faraday Future unveiled a production version of its FF 91 electric crossover at the CES show in Las Vegas. The company is taking deposits, but in November it suspended construction of an assembly plant in Nevada.

According to Dunne, other companies worth watching are China’s trio of Internet technology providers: Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. All three companies have opened technical centers in Silicon Valley to develop self-driving vehicles.

And they are stocking their r&d operations with high-priced talent lured away from Western competitors.

Baidu, a search engine company, has announced plans for mass deployment of self-driving cars in 2021. Alibaba, an e-commerce provider, is developing an infotainment system to compete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Tencent, a provider of online gaming, mobile phone services and media, is a financial backer of NextEV, which unveiled its first model — the Nio EP9 electric sports car — in London last November.

The tech firms are moving quickly to establish a niche, Dunne said. Among traditional Chinese automakers, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group may be best positioned to succeed in the United States.

Last year, the company unveiled a new brand, Lynk & CO, and announced plans to introduce it in Europe and the U.S. in 2019.

Geely, which acquired Volvo Car Co. in 2010, is jointly developing new platforms with its Swedish partner. The California market may prove attractive for Lynk, Dunne said.

In general, these Chinese companies intend to compete in the U.S. on performance, quality and styling — not price, Dunne said.

“I don’t see the Chinese coming in with extremely competitive pricing and taking market share away,” Dunne said. “They’ll come, but it will be gradual.”

Uber CEO quits Trump’s business advisory group

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Travis Kalanick, facing criticism from immigration advocates for serving on President Donald Trump’s business advisory group, quit the group on Thursday, the company said.

The CEO of the ride hailing service had been under mounting pressure from activists who oppose the administration’s immigration policies, including Uber drivers, many of whom are immigrants.

“Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that,” Kalanick, who had planned to attend a meeting of the group on Friday, said in an email to employees reviewed by Reuters.

He said he spoke briefly to Trump about the immigration order “and its issues for our community” and told the president he would not join the economic council.

Uber spokeswoman Chelsea Kohler later confirmed that he had left the group.

Social media campaigns had targeted Uber, urging users to delete accounts and opt for rival Lyft Inc. Uber has been emailing users who deleted their accounts to say it shares their concerns and will compensate drivers affected by the ban.

“There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that. The executive order is hurting many people in communities all across America,” Kalanick wrote in a note to employees. “Families are being separated, people are stranded overseas and there’s a growing fear the U.S. is no longer a place that welcomes immigrants.”

The move could put pressure on other CEOs expected to attend a meeting with Trump on Friday. General Motors said its CEO, Mary Barra, will attend, while Walt Disney Co. said earlier Thursday its CEO would not attend because of a long-planned board meeting.

The White House did not immediately comment.

Others expected to take part include the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Blackstone Group, IBM Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Others that are part of the council include Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Boston Consulting Group CEO Rich Lesser.

The departure of Kalanick could signal a growing rift between technology companies and Washington.

“There is a battle brewing between Trump and Silicon Valley,” said Neeraj Agrawal, general partner at Battery Ventures. “They (the Trump administration) clearly don’t value the economic activity generated by tech.”

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday said it proposed a modification of Trump’s travel limits.

Technology companies including Microsoft, Google owner Alphabet Inc., Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. have opposed Trump’s order, arguing that they rely on workers from around the world.

Amazon and Expedia Inc have filed court documents supporting a legal challenge to the order by the Washington state attorney general.2/

Snapchat files plans for US stock market listing

Putting Snapchat to the test

Snap, the parent company of messaging app Snapchat, has publicly filed plans to list on the US stock market.

The California-based firm is seeking to raise $3bn (£2.4bn) from the share sale, according to reports.

Based on investments so far, the tech firm would be worth between $20bn and $25bn, making it the biggest US flotation in recent years.

The company was first reported in November to have filed a confidential application for the listing.

The company began in 2012 as a mobile app that allowed users to send photos that vanish within seconds.

It now has nearly 160 million daily users, which is more than Twitter.


Snapchat is seen as an appealing way for advertisers to reach young people, with almost two-thirds of its users aged between 13 and 24.

The firm grew revenue by nearly 600% last year to $404m, largely due to increased income from adverts, according to the listing plans.

However, heavy costs, including from marketing and research, dragged Snap to a net loss of $515m.

Snap’s co-founder, 26-year-old Evan Spiegel, turned down an offer from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to buy Snapchat for $3bn just over three years ago.

Amazon misses holiday sales forecasts

Amazon logo on phone

Online retailer Amazon has narrowly missed sales expectations for the fourth quarter after revenue rose 22% to $43.7bn (£34.9bn).

It had been forecast by analysts to report larger sales of $44.7bn during the busy holiday period of the three months to 31 December 2016.

Net profit rose from $482m in the final quarter of 2015 to $749m.

For the full-year, sales increased 27% to $136bn and income soared from $596m to $2.4bn.

Amazon said last month that the 2016 holiday was its best-ever shopping season, when it shipped 50% more items than the prior year.

Google will soon integrate Progressive Web Apps deeper into Android

Progressive Web Apps, which are basically sophisticated web apps that are able to use features like push notifications and a local cache to give users a native-like experience, have been on Google’s radar for the last few years. While they almost look and feel like native apps, they were never fully integrated into Android. Google plans to change this soon, though.

Soon, you will not just be able to add a link to a progressive web app to your home screen, but once you save it there, that app will also be integrated far deeper into Android than ever before. The apps will not just appear on the home screen, for example, but also in the app drawer. They will also appear in the settings menu, get all the same notifications options that native apps currently have, and be able to receive incoming intents from other apps.

“This new Add to Home screen feature is one more step in our journey to empower developers to build the best possible experience for their users, and we are committed to ensuring the same mechanisms for installing Progressive Web Apps are available to all browsers on Android,” Google’s Yaron Friedman writes in today’s announcement.

For users, this will make for a far better experience than the current one, which mostly treats the links to the web apps as glorified bookmarks.

Delphi says automated work may come to U.S. from Mexico

DETROIT — Delphi Automotive said that if it brings any manufacturing to the U.S. from Mexico, it is likely to be automated work, which has fewer jobs attached to it.

Joe Massaro, Delphi chief financial officer, said that 90 percent of the company’s workforce is in “best-cost countries,” which keep its costs down and profits up.

The comments came as Delphi reported its fourth-quarter earnings earlier Thursday.

Company executives will wait for specific details of trade policies from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration before making any changes but manufacturing shifts are possible, Massaro said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

“There are certainly more automated-type manufacturing processes down there that we could conceivably see coming back, or coming to the U.S.,” said Massaro.

“We’ll look at that depending on where the rules go, but it would have to be of much more of the automated-type manufacturing operations, just given the labor (cost) differential there,” he said.

Automated manufacturing and the fewer jobs it creates has been a growing trend among automotive and other manufacturing industries and has led to deep cuts in workforces for the last quarter century.

Regarding potential imposition of a “border adjustment tax” on goods imported from Mexico, Massaro pointed out that it may affect all imported goods, not just those from Mexico.

“Round numbers, our cost of sales value for imported material into the U.S. is about $4 billion. The majority of that is out of Mexico,” about $3.5 billion annually, he said.

Massaro added that the figure for Delphi exports out of the U.S. is about $1.5 billion annually.

Delphi has shed most of its lower-margin automotive supplier businesses in recent years, and is seen as one of the companies best placed to grow as the automotive industry moves toward self-driving vehicles. This has made it a darling of Wall Street, which has sent its shares up more than three-fold since the end of 2011, and up 8.4 percent since the start of this year.

Delphi bases its top management in Michigan but is headquartered in England for tax purposes. The company said its tax rate for 2017 will be about 16 percent.

Rock Out in a Perfectly Restored Range Rover for Just $170K

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The Aston Martin Vanquish has been around in its current form since 2012, and the drop-dead gorgeous, drop top, Volante version is just a year younger.

The aging design still gets people drooling, and the British car maker has kept it alive by bolstering it to an ‘S’ version (for upgraded performance) and adding new aerodynamic styling elements like an exposed carbon fiber splitter and diffuser, and quad exhausts.

Now, Aston has revealed the Vanquish Volante S, ‘volante’ designating the convertible version, naturally.

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Aston’s engineers matched the new car’s flowing lines with an upgraded version of the 6.0-liter V12 engine (also carried by its Vanquish S coupe model) which now pumps out 580 hp. There are no turbochargers here—a rarity nowadays—but a freer-breathing intake manifold design should improve throttle response.

Inside, there are some incomprehensible but obvi desirable options like a “Satin Chopped Carbon Fiber” fascia panel and “Sumptuous Bridge of Weir Caithness leather”. They probably make sense to the craftspeople in Gaydon, England, who hand assemble the cars, before selling the Vanquish S Volante to fancy people everywhere, starting at $312,950.

How to view and control Wi-Fi data usage on Android

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We are growing ever more connected to our mobile devices—so much so, that many users have shunned the desktop. To that end, we’re using data by the GB. So, it’s nice to be able to see, at a glance, how much data you are using and to control what is using the data.

SEE: 6 ways to cut back Android data usage (CNET)

If you want to check cellular data on your Android device, open Settings, tap Data Usage, and view your stats. From that page, you can tap Cellular Data Usage and view the specifics of what apps/services are using your data (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure AFigure A

If you glance at a device that uses cellular data (which is the case with most mobile devices), tap Cellular Data Usage to see a quick graph of data usage and scroll down to see what apps are using the bulk of that data (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure BFigure B

You can tap any one of those apps and customize how the app uses data (Figure C). For instance, you can enable/disable Background Data, Unrestricted Data Usage, Wi-Fi, and/or Data Usage.

Figure C

Figure CFigure C

So far we only looked at cellular network data usage, though you can also view Wi-Fi data usage and then configure apps to act accordingly. The way you view Wi-Fi data usage will depend upon which version of Android you are using. Since the majority of Android users are working with Android 6.0 or newer, I’ll focus on that iteration of the platform (the same steps work for Android 6.x and 7.x).

Viewing Wi-Fi data usage

To view Wi-Fi data usage, you have to enable it from within the Data Usage Window. Open Settings | Data Usage. From that window, tap the menu button (three vertical dots in the upper right corner) and tap Show Wi-Fi (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure DFigure D

Once it’s enabled, you’ll see a Wi-Fi tab listed (Figure E)—tap on that tab, and you can view your Wi-Fi data usage in the same way as you can cellular usage.

Figure E

Figure EFigure E

Now you are able to view and control Wi-Fi data usage on your Android device. Knowing how much data you are using on a wireless network, and how to curtail data-hogging apps, could go a long way to keeping your business network free from bottlenecks and other issues.