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A round-up of the latest news from the world of motoring

■ Mercedes-Benz reveals camper versions of its X-Class pick-up truck

MERCEDES-Benz has revealed camping conversion concepts for its new X-Class pick-up truck. Pitched at those who like to combine their camping trips with a healthy dose of adventurous exploration, the German vehicle-maker commissioned pick-up truck conversion specialist Tischer to create a concept for a detachable living compartment.

The cabin is fitted to the load bed of Mercedes’ new pick-up truck, which it says is the first premium pick-up on the market. Targeted at commercial customers who regularly use their car for leisure trips, the truck boasts plenty of on-board technology plus a class-leading interior and went on sale at the end of last year.

The camper unit features a sleeping compartment in an alcove 150cm wide, as well as two-metres of headroom, a kitchen with three-burner gas stove and a sofa. The latter can be converted into a second bed. Despite its small size, the X-Class’s camper conversion also has an integrated bathroom, with a foldaway wash basin, swivelling toilet and space for a shower.

Mercedes-Benz is demonstrating the concept at CMT — the international exhibition for caravans, motors and tourism — in Stuttgart between January 13 and 21. Its stand will also feature the brand’s Marco Polo range of camping van conversions and a pull-out kitchen for the X-Class.

Created by camper van equipment specialist VanEssa, the 250kg unit features a coolbox, cooking and washing-up facilities, plus space for crockery and other supplies.

Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said: ‘It is important to us that our vehicles appeal to camper van bodybuilders as well as to end customers. The X-Class fits seamlessly into our established product range. We are proud to introduce our first camper van concepts together with Tischer and VanEssa at the CMT just two months after the vehicle’s launch.’

Mornhinweg also revealed that because of the success of the brand’s Marco Polo Horizon model, which can sleep up to five people, a right-hand-drive version was being developed for the UK market.

■ Brexit deal must be clear by April if the UK car industry is to remain competitive

A BREXIT transition deal must be made clear by April if the UK automotive industry is to continue to stay competitive, claim lobbyists. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ chief executive Mike Hawes said the deadline for the government to give the industry information about the deal is ‘now’ – otherwise it will have to start taking costly contingency measures.

Speaking ahead of the news that the new car market in the UK was down by 5.6 per cent in 2017, he said: ‘We need information now. We look at the European Commission and government statements about a possible transition deal and they don’t align. Our members struggle to make decisions on investments when they don’t know what’s ahead.

‘If we don’t have clarity by the end of the first quarter, after that the industry will have to start taking contingency measures, such as stockpiling parts and vehicles, which costs money and makes them less competitive.’

Uncertainty in the UK has impacted vehicle sales and car buyers have voted with their feet in 2017, opting to hold onto their existing cars or buy used, rather than new, models. New car registration estimates were reassessed in November after seven months of decline in the market, and today’s figures are even lower than expected.

Hawes noted that although he isn’t aware of Brexit resulting in anyone losing their jobs, ‘you can’t say it hasn’t cost potential new jobs – production and sales are down, which isn’t good for the industry’.

In October, Vauxhall announced it was moving workers at its Ellesmere Port factory in Cheshire to a single shift and cutting 400 jobs through a ‘voluntary separation programme’. The carmaker — now owned by France’s PSA Groupe, which also makes Peugeots and Citroens — said at the time that the move was not because of Brexit, but was instead to bring costs down in line with its ‘benchmark’ factories in France.

And Hawes used the site as an example of the positive opportunities that could be available after Brexit. He pointed to comments by PSA Groupe boss Carlos Tavares that ‘there could be advantages to having a factory that uses sterling and is outside the EU in close proximity to Europe’.

■ Car theft rises by 30 per cent in three years

THE number of vehicles stolen in England and Wales has shot up by 30 per cent in just three years, with experts blaming keyless entry systems for the rise.

A freedom of information request showed that 65,783 vehicles were reported stolen in 2013 to 40 police forces in England and Wales, but by 2016 this had risen to 85,688.

London had the most vehicles stolen, with 26,496 taken in 2016 — equating to nearly a third of the thefts (31 per cent). Similar to the national trend, this represented a 29 per cent increase on 2013, when 20,565 were stolen. The research by the RAC also showed that outside London the worst-hit region was the West Midlands with 5,930 thefts — a 43 per cent increase on 2013 (4,161). This was closely followed by West Yorkshire with 5,597, a 57 per cent rise from 2013.

Fourth spot was claimed by Greater Manchester, which saw 4,999 stolen vehicles in 2016 and fifth was Essex with 3,623. Both saw a 29 per cent increase on 2013. AA president Edmund King said: ‘Most cars are stolen to order and find their way heading overseas to fund other criminal activity. Unfortunately, keys are often the weakest link in the car crime chain. Traditional methods of car theft, such as taking the keys during a house burglary, remain common, but thieves are also trying their hand at hi-tech methods of stealing cars.

‘Modern keyless ‘entry and go’ systems that remove the need to use a mechanical key are designed for drivers’ convenience but have ironically created new opportunities for car thieves. If your car has a ‘keyless’ system, make sure you keep the keys far enough away from the car when you’re at home.’

RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: ‘We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems. This is bad news for motorists, as it has the effect of causing insurance premiums to rise at a time when they are already being pushed up by a variety of factors, not least the recent change to the discount rate for life-changing personal injury compensation claims and the rises in insurance premium tax.’