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Women could solve UK’s productivity puzzle 

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Just 14 FTSE 350 boards have a female chief executive, including drugs giant GlaxoSmith-Kline's Emma Walmsley

Just 14 FTSE 350 boards have a female chief executive, including drugs giant GlaxoSmith-Kline's Emma Walmsley

Just 14 FTSE 350 boards have a female chief executive, including drugs giant GlaxoSmith-Kline’s Emma Walmsley 

Boosting women’s participation in the workforce could be the answer to Britain’s ‘productivity puzzle’, claims a top economist.

Productivity, or the amount of goods and services produced per hour worked, has flat-lined in the UK since the start of the financial crisis even as the economy has recovered, confusing experts.

But encouraging more women into the workforce could jump-start productivity, according to Vicky Pryce of economic consultancy the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

She has called for measures such as better parental leave, more heavily subsidised childcare and stronger enforcement of equal pay. 

Pryce added: ‘It is clear that when women leave work to have children they almost never recover their earlier career path.’

On Wednesday, a report from the Hampton-Alexander Review – an independent body set up to increase the number of women on FTSE 350 boards – is expected to show progress at many firms. 

Currently just 14 have a female chief executive, including drugs giant GlaxoSmith-Kline’s Emma Walmsley.

 

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Test your knowledge of warning symbols you only find in hybrid and electric cars 

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Plenty of motorists are already perplexed by the number of different dashboard warning lights that pop up on their car’s display, but there a few new ones they are going to need to get their heads around sooner or later.

That’s because a number of dashboard icons are reserved only for plug-in cars that you would never have seen before if you’ve only filled a vehicle up with petrol or diesel.

The big question is, will you know what they are telling you? The quiz below will test your knowledge of hybrid and electric vehicle warning lights.

Brush-up on your icons: When most of us are driving electric cars like a Jaguar I-Pace (pictured), there are different dashboard warning lights motorists will need to know

Brush-up on your icons: When most of us are driving electric cars like a Jaguar I-Pace (pictured), there are different dashboard warning lights motorists will need to know

Brush-up on your icons: When most of us are driving electric cars like a Jaguar I-Pace (pictured), there are different dashboard warning lights motorists will need to know

While a conventional petrol or diesel vehicle will have a variety of warning lights to alert a drivers to an overheating engine, low oil pressure or serious mechanical malfunction, these will soon become obsolete.

That’s because a number of existing warning lights simply won’t apply to electrified cars.

And with fewer moving parts than a conventional model with a combustion engine, you might think there won’t be much need for too many extra icons when electric vehicles become mainstream.

However, there are 13 icons in this quiz that you won’t find in a petrol or diesel car but are likely to spot in one that you need to plug into the mains.

Not all of them are warning lights per se – some are icons telling you about functionality and different modes you’ll regularly spot if you’ve already made the switch the electric power.

The quiz, powered by vehicle leasing firm, Leasing Options, shows the symbol in question and offers a multiple choice of answers.

Once you choose the meaning behind the symbol, it will tell you if you’re correct or not and also explain why it would illuminate.

For those that are related to vehicle issues, the quiz also details if you need to simply restart the car for the light to disappear or get on the phone to a qualified mechanic to take an urgent look.

There’s no doubting that the majority of today’s drivers will need to scrub up on these icons and any others that will be exclusive to electric cars in the future.

With the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles currently scheduled for 2040 in the UK, many are already making the transition to low-emission motoring way ahead of that deadline.

Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (which holds all registration details in the UK) show that demand for pure electric vehicles has so far soared by 122 per cent in 2019 so far.

While pure electric vehicles only represent 1.3 per cent of the new-car market currently, the figures are only going to increase.

That is in some part down to car manufacturers ramping up their efforts to develop plug-in models that will serve motorists around the world better.

For instance, at this week’s LA Motor Show both Audi and Volkswagen revealed forthcoming plug-in cars with extended ranges exceeding 278 miles before needing a charge.

However, there remains plenty of reluctance among Britons to buy one – especially those over the age of 55.

Audi has just unveiled the 278-mile range e-tron Sportback - an SUV aimed at families that's on sale next year for around £70,000

Audi has just unveiled the 278-mile range e-tron Sportback - an SUV aimed at families that's on sale next year for around £70,000

Volkswagen's 365-mile ID Space Vizzion is another family-aimed car, this time a stylish estate - it's due in 2021

Volkswagen's 365-mile ID Space Vizzion is another family-aimed car, this time a stylish estate - it's due in 2021

LA Motor Show new arrivals: (Left) Audi has just unveiled the 278-mile range e-tron Sportback – an SUV aimed at families that’s on sale next year for around £70k. (Right) Volkswagen’s 365-mile ID Space Vizzion is another family-aimed car, this time a stylish estate – it’s due in 2021

A recent poll found there is a cut-off age around 55 when drivers are more skeptical about the concept of owning an electric car

A recent poll found there is a cut-off age around 55 when drivers are more skeptical about the concept of owning an electric car

A recent poll found there is a cut-off age around 55 when drivers are more skeptical about the concept of owning an electric car

A study centered around a poll of 2,000 motorists by KPMG earlier this month found that there was a clear cut off at this age where drivers were less open to the idea of owning a battery-powered vehicle.  

Justin Benson, head of automotive at KPMG UK, said there is a ‘massive generational shift taking place’ in the market, as younger people appear far more accepting of the concept of using an electric car day-to-day while older licence holders doubt the capabilities of plug-in models.

He said that older drivers’ biggest concern of range anxiety (the fear of a car coming to a halt because it’s run out of battery power before reaching the desired destination) was unfounded, based on the average motorists’ annual mileage. 

He explained: ‘I don’t think there will be range anxiety in the future, especially given that 85 per cent of all journeys made in Britain are less than 15 miles.’ 

The study found that for younger drivers the biggest worry about electric vehicles was focused around charging times, though there appeared to be more acceptance that plug-in periods will be significantly reduced among the panel of motorists in the lower age groups. 

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New £120,000 Audi RS Q8 driven

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Audi has launched its most potent ever new 190mph flagship family SUV costing from £120,000.

Powered by a 4.0-litre V8 bi-turbo TFSI direct-injection petrol engine linked to a mild-hybrid system and an 8-speed automatic gearbox, the new Audi RS Q8 is the firm’s most powerful and fastest sports utility vehicle, accelerating from rest to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds and to 124.3 mph in 13.7 seconds.

Although the standard 155.3mph top speed is electronically governed, customers can buy an optional dynamic package which allows that to be raised to 189.5mph.

Sound quick? It is. So rapid in fact that it now holds the lap record around the Nürburgring circuit, completing the fearsome lap in 7 minutes and 42 seconds.

Fastest SUV of them all:Audi RS Q8 is the firm’s most powerful and fastest sports utility vehicle, accelerating from rest to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds and to 124.3 mph in 13.7 seconds

Fastest SUV of them all:Audi RS Q8 is the firm’s most powerful and fastest sports utility vehicle, accelerating from rest to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds and to 124.3 mph in 13.7 seconds

Fastest SUV of them all:Audi RS Q8 is the firm’s most powerful and fastest sports utility vehicle, accelerating from rest to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds and to 124.3 mph in 13.7 seconds

Launching its new 4X4 Leviathan at the opening day of the Los Angeles Auto Show in California, the German car maker said: ‘The new Audi RS Q8 is the top model in the Q product line. It is the most powerful SUV coupe from Audi Sport.

‘It combines the power of an RS model with the elegance of a premium coupe and the flexibility of an SUV.’ 

And powerful it undoubtedly is. So much so that it shaved 7 seconds off the previous SUV lap record around the German track set by German rival, Mercedes-AMG’s GLC 63 S.

Prices for the top of the range all-wheel-drive bruiser start at €127,000 and are set to be around £120,000 in the UK with first deliveries in Spring. 

But that is a considerable mark-up of around £40,000 on the standard Q8.

The start-up ignition sequence promises a ‘sportily voluminous sound’ from the dual exhaust system with oval tailpipes. An optional RS sport exhaust system with black tailpipe trims promises ‘an even sportier sound.’

The V8 engine has a ‘mild-hybrid’ 48-volt electrical system which during deceleration and braking can recover up to 12 kW of power and store it in the compact lithium-ion battery.

Ray Massey has been driving the new super-SUV while in the US for the LA Motor Show this week

Ray Massey has been driving the new super-SUV while in the US for the LA Motor Show this week

Ray Massey has been driving the new super-SUV while in the US for the LA Motor Show this week

The RS Q8 now holds the lap record around the Nürburgring circuit, completing the fearsome lap in 7 minutes and 42 seconds

The RS Q8 now holds the lap record around the Nürburgring circuit, completing the fearsome lap in 7 minutes and 42 seconds

The RS Q8 now holds the lap record around the Nürburgring circuit, completing the fearsome lap in 7 minutes and 42 seconds

It shaved a massive 7 seconds off the previous record held by an expensive Mercedes-AMG

It shaved a massive 7 seconds off the previous record held by an expensive Mercedes-AMG

It shaved a massive 7 seconds off the previous record held by an expensive Mercedes-AMG

If the driver takes his or her foot off the accelerator at speeds between 34.2 to 99.4 mph, the car’s drive management helps store or use the energy generated. 

Recuperating that energy allows it to coast for up to 40 seconds with the engine off. It also allows for start/stop operation at a speed of up to 13.7 mph.

The mild-hybrid system is also connected to the camera sensors. So at stop, the engine starts up while the brake pedal is still depressed as soon as the front camera detects that the vehicle in front begins to move.

Audi engineers say the mild hybrid system improves ride comfort and also has the potential to significantly reduce fuel consumption in everyday driving.

There’s another frugal fuel saver. At low to middling load and revs in the upper gears, the car’s ‘cylinder on demand’ system can imperceptibly in milliseconds de-activate half the cylinders by switching off fuel injection and ignition and closing the intake and exhaust valves. 

They are reactivated immediately when the driver presses the accelerator.

During dynamic cornering, the four-wheel drive system distributes power between the rear wheels as required: ‘This active torque vectoring improves traction, stability and dynamics.’

Prices for the top of the range all-wheel-drive bruiser start at €127,000 and are set to be around £120,000 in the UK with first deliveries in Spring

Prices for the top of the range all-wheel-drive bruiser start at €127,000 and are set to be around £120,000 in the UK with first deliveries in Spring

Prices for the top of the range all-wheel-drive bruiser start at €127,000 and are set to be around £120,000 in the UK with first deliveries in Spring

Paying a premium: £120,000 price tag is a considerable mark-up of around £40,000 on the standard Q8

Paying a premium: £120,000 price tag is a considerable mark-up of around £40,000 on the standard Q8

Paying a premium: £120,000 price tag is a considerable mark-up of around £40,000 on the standard Q8

To further aid stability up to 70 per cent of the car’s power can be directed to the front wheels and up to 85 percent to the rear wheels.

It has adaptive air suspension to help stability on the road, track or off-road trail and the driver can tweak its body’s height ride height by up to 90 millimetres (3.5 in).

Audi engineers say the RS Q8’s chassis is designed for ‘maximum sportiness.’ An optional electromechanical active roll stabilisation system minimises body roll during fast cornering thanks to a compact electric motor on each of the two axles. 

On uneven roads this compensates for body movement and increases ride comfort. During cornering it significantly reduces vehicle lean, says the car-maker.

For greater agility, at low speeds, the 4X4’s rear wheels turn up to 5 degrees in the opposite direction of the front wheels. And to improve stability during fast lane changes, at high speeds they turn up to 1.5 degrees in the same direction.

Off-road performance is helped by variable ground clearance, short overhangs, permanent all-wheel drive and hill descent control.

Audi RS Q8: Will it fit in my garage? 

Price: circa £120,000

First deliveries: Spring 2020

Engine: 4.0 litre bi-turbo V8 Power: 600horse-power (HP)

Top speed: 189mph (with optional dynamic passage)

155mph standard

0 to 62mph: 3.8 seconds

Length: 5,012mm (197.3 inches)

Width: 1,998m (78.6 inches)

Height: 1,708mm (67.2 inches)

Wheelbase: 2,996 (118.0 in)

Weight: 2,315 kg (5,103.7 lb)

Wheels: 22-inch aluminium alloys standard, 23-inch as option.

Two different LED headlight configurations are available, including three-dimensional running lights.

Behind the wheel of the new Audi RS Q8 the driver can choose from eight driving modes according to mood or conditions: comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency, allroad, offroad, plus two individual RS-specific modes – RS1 and RS2 – which can be activated directly via the ‘RS-MODE’ button on the steering wheel.

The digital dashboard display allows drivers to record lap-times and even – in the manner of jet pilots and astronauts – the ‘g-forces’ being pulled. A head up display is an option.

The SUV has more than 30 driver assist assist systems including adaptive cruise control, lane change warning and 360 degree cameras.

The 22-inch aluminium wheels fitted as standard in a 10-spoke star design are the largest ever factory-installed on an Audi production model. But 23-inch versions in a 5 spoke rotor design and a variety of colours are available as options.

Keeping the vast 4X4 in check are large composite brake discs measuring 16.5 inches up front and 14.6 inches at the back. Their 10-inch piston calipers are painted black as standard and red as an option.

Ceramic brakes measuring 17.3 inches at the front and 14.6 inches at the back are available as an option in in grey, red or blue.

The athletic new Audi RS Q8 comes in a choice of nine colours: one solid and eight metallic or pearl effect shades. Exterior mirror housings come standard in black, with body colour, aluminium or carbon options.

With its coupe-like styling and sloping roof, to help further distinguish it from the standard Q8 – it has specific RS exterior trim that widens its stance by up to half an inch, a variety of exclusive interior and exterior tweaks with added customisation options, a black high gloss honeycomb radiator grille with solid side air inlets and a blade in high gloss black.

An ‘RS’ roof edge spoiler gives added downforce on the rear axle for better balance at high speeds.

The SUV has more than 30 driver assist assist systems including adaptive cruise control, lane change warning and 360 degree cameras

The SUV has more than 30 driver assist assist systems including adaptive cruise control, lane change warning and 360 degree cameras

The SUV has more than 30 driver assist assist systems including adaptive cruise control, lane change warning and 360 degree cameras

Off-road performance is helped by variable ground clearance, short overhangs, permanent all-wheel drive and hill descent control - not that many owners will take it off the beaten track

Off-road performance is helped by variable ground clearance, short overhangs, permanent all-wheel drive and hill descent control - not that many owners will take it off the beaten track

Off-road performance is helped by variable ground clearance, short overhangs, permanent all-wheel drive and hill descent control – not that many owners will take it off the beaten track

Ceramic brakes measuring 17.3 inches at the front and 14.6 inches at the back are available as an option in in grey, red or blue

Ceramic brakes measuring 17.3 inches at the front and 14.6 inches at the back are available as an option in in grey, red or blue

Ceramic brakes measuring 17.3 inches at the front and 14.6 inches at the back are available as an option in in grey, red or blue

Inside, Audi have sought to create a clean, spacious, sporty – and very black – interior with a slim instrument panel and headlining in black cloth or an optional lunar silver, and sport seats in black pearl Nappa leather or Alcantara with RS embossing.

RS sport seats in Valcona leather – in black cognac or granite grey – with a honeycomb pattern and RS embossing are an even more luxurious option. They have a massage function and are perforated to also provide ventilation.

Two RS design packages include extensive red or grey contrasting stitching on Alcantra trim, including on the steering wheel rim and seat belt edges.

A sliding three-seat rear bench comes as standard and with the seat backrests folded down, the luggage compartment holds up to 1,755 litres.

Managing director of Audi Sport Oliver Hoffmann said: ‘For the first time in the 25-year history of Audi RS models, we are putting a large SUV coupe with the genes of a true high-performance sports car on the road. 

‘With its bi-turbo V8 gasoline engine, the Audi RS Q8 is the prestigious spearhead of the RS model family.’ 

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Brits are determined to splash out Christmas, survey finds

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The vast majority of British households are not planning to tighten the purse strings this Christmas, a survey has found, despite the ongoing Brexit uncertainty and gloomy retail sales predictions. 

According to a survey of shoppers by consultancy firm Accenture, 87 per cent of UK shoppers are planning to spend the same or more than last year this festive season. 

Meanwhile, more than half of respondents – 57 per cent – said that that political uncertainty fueled by the ongoing Brexit deadlock will have no impact on their festive spending whatsoever.

The vast majority of British households are not planning to tighten the purse strings this Christmas, a survey has found

The vast majority of British households are not planning to tighten the purse strings this Christmas, a survey has found

The vast majority of British households are not planning to tighten the purse strings this Christmas, a survey has found

The findings stand in contrast to predictions that the timing of the upcoming election in the crucial run up to Christmas, and ongoing consumer uncertainty, will knock retail sales this year and batter the already ailing industry. 

Either way, it looks set to be a nail biting Golden Quarter for retailers, with nearly half of shoppers – 47 per cent – planning to leave most of their shopping until the final weekend before Christmas.   

It is younger shoppers in particular that are planning to spend more than last year. 

Accenture found that 45 per cent of younger millennials and 38 per cent of Gen Z are looking to push the boat out on festive food, children’s toys and clothes.      

Accenture’s Andrew Carlisle says: ‘There’s no doubt that it’s been an incredibly difficult year for retailers. There have already been more job losses and more store closures than 2018 – with the year not even being up yet. 

‘But the high street gloom doesn’t seem to have dampened shoppers’ spirits this festive season, buoyed by younger consumers planning to spend big over the holidays.’

The survey of 1,500 shoppers also found that environmental concerns will impact people’s shopping habits this year and result in a boost for the second hand or ‘pre-loved’ market.

More than half of respondents say they would welcome second-hand gifts, while 35 per cent will adopt a no-gift policy, give homemade gifts or opt to give money to charity instead. 

The survey of 1,500 shoppers also found that environmental concerns will impact people's shopping habits this year

The survey of 1,500 shoppers also found that environmental concerns will impact people's shopping habits this year

The survey of 1,500 shoppers also found that environmental concerns will impact people’s shopping habits this year

An eco-conscious 13 per cent said they won’t wrap presents, and most say they would pay a premium for a product that is more environmentally sustainable.

A move away from gifting could trigger a boom in spending on food and festive celebrations.    

Lynda Petherick from Accenture says: ‘While some retailers have started to introduce recycling schemes and product lines with higher sustainability credentials, they are still in the minority, presenting a huge opportunity for agile retailers to tap into a growing customer segment.’ 

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