Car news: the biggest motoring stories 2021 - June to July

We take a look at the some of the best news stories featured on Auto Express throughout 2021...

June

Toyota’s revolutionary 10-year warranty

Toyota and Lexus launched a ground-breaking new warranty scheme this summer that covers their cars for up to 10 years from the original delivery. 

We previously thought that Kia and SsangYong’s seven-year warranties were unbeatable, but the scheme from Toyota and Lexus covers all models up to 10 years old – so existing owners can benefit – as long as they are serviced at approved centres.

Toyota launches groundbreaking 10-year warranty

Euro-spec Honda Civic Mk11 unmasked

Honda revealed the 11th-generation Civic in June, following an initial glimpse of the car from the saloon model that went on sale in the US earlier in the year. 

The hatchback, which looks more conventional than the current car, will only be available as a hybrid, as part of Honda’s plan to electrify all its models by 2025. It will be the first Civic sold in Britain but not built here since 1994, because of the closure of Honda’s Swindon plant.

New 2022 Honda Civic hatchback revealed with hybrid power

Ferrari 296 GTB V6 hybrid revealed

A new Ferrari is always exciting, especially when it has 819bhp – and the new 296 GTB delivers that from its V6 engine and electric motor. 

It’s the first six-cylinder Ferrari since the Dino 246 GT of 1974, but thanks to the plug-in hybrid powertrain, it’s one of the most technologically advanced supercars of its type.

It can sprint from 0-62mph in just 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of over 200mph, but unlike many high-powered models it has rear-wheel drive only. We can’t wait to get behind the wheel of this futuristic new Ferrari.

New 2021 Ferrari 296 GTB launched with 819bhp V6 hybrid powertrain

Pandemic caused a severe backlog for paperwork at the DVLA

This summer we reported that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) was faced with a “catastrophic” backlog of applications and cases caused by a variety of factors linked to Covid-19, including social-distancing rules and industrial action.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) held strikes this year in response to “unsafe” working conditions, and over 640 members of the DVLA’s 6,000 staff reportedly caught Covid-19. The PCS union said that this could have been avoided if staff were allowed to work from home.

Mark Serwotka, head of the PCS, said: “We believe that if the Department of Work and Pensions can deal with three million universal credit claims, if HMRC can deliver the furlough scheme, if we have workers in the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and devolved nations working from home handling in some cases much more secure data, then so could the DVLA.”

In response, Julie Leonard, chief executive of the DVLA, said that “[the DVLA has] taken staff safety incredibly seriously at every point in this. Had it been easy to have more people working at home, we would have done it. Staff safety really has come first.”

As a result of this industrial action and other factors, some motorists were left unable to drive for months, while others never received documents that should have been returned to them by the DVLA.

Online operations were mostly unaffected, but drivers with medical conditions, or those needing a letter from a medical professional, have to rely on physical documents. The DVLA said: “There are significant delays in processing paper applications and contacting us due to ongoing industrial action and social-distancing requirements. Paper applications are taking, on average, up to six weeks to process, but there may be longer delays for more complex transactions.”

Thankfully drivers were told that they could continue to drive after submitting an application as long as they hadn’t been instructed not to do so for medical reasons.

The PCS union said that the backlog of 1.4 million cases could have been avoided, but the DVLA called the strike action “disappointing” and said PCS was “targeting services that will have the greatest negative impact on the public, including some of the more vulnerable people in society”.

Driving licence body faces huge backlog cases due to strikes and Covid disruption

July

Vauxhall Astra official pictures

The new Vauxhall Astra was revealed in July with a dramatic new look. It’s set to be based on the EMP2 platform shared with the Peugeot 308 and many other models in the Stellantis stable,and features a futuristic design that links it to the new Mokka.

There will be petrol and diesel versions, while an electric model will arrive later, along with a plug-in hybrid model with an electric range of 35 miles.

Take a look at the 2022 Vauxhall Astra here

Aston Martin Valhalla unveiled

Aston’s next supercar, the Valhalla, was revealed in July. It’s a boldly styled mid-engined model with a 4.0-litre V8 assisted by two electric motors.

The engine alone produces an astonishing 740bhp and the plug-in hybrid set-up tops that up to 937bhp. The electric motors are mounted on each axle, giving the Valhalla four-wheel drive. It’s said to go from 0-62mph in just 2.5 seconds and runs to 217mph. 

New Aston Martin Valhalla supercar revealed with 937bhp hybrid power

Goodwood Festival of Speed returns

The Goodwood Festival of Speed was back, after being forced to go online-only in 2020 because of the pandemic.

This year’s lead car maker was Lotus, which showed off the new Emira at the event, while the special sculpture on the lawn was Lotus-themed. The hillclimb event, Sunday Shootout, supercar paddock and concours d’elegance ran as normal, while the new Electric Avenue showed off the latest EVs.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2021: news round-up

Tesla to open up Supercharger network

Tesla confirmed in summer that it would soon be opening up its Supercharger network of rapid chargers to non-Tesla owners. This would mean all electric cars with rapid charge-tech could benefit from the firm’s huge network of chargers – although they would be charged at a higher rate than Tesla owners. 

There’s no word yet on when this will happen, but a pilot scheme began in the Netherlands recently.

Read: Tesla Supercharger pilot scheme opens for other EVs in Holland

GB stickers scrapped

We reported in July that GB stickers would no longer be valid on your car if you drive abroad. Instead, you will have to use a UK sticker. This is because while the GB sticker was valid for Northern Ireland residents, the country is not part of Great Britain but rather the United Kingdom.

The UK Government wrote to the United Nations to enact the change. It follows a switch from number plates that feature the EU flag to ones displaying the Union Flag, despite the fact that these plates were revealed with the GB lettering.

GB stickers no longer valid for driving abroad

We take a ride in the new Lotus Emira with Jenson Button at the wheel

The new Lotus Emira could be one of the most important British sports cars for years, and while we’ve not had the chance to drive one yet, we did get to ride in one alongside Jenson Button, Britain’s 2009 Formula One world champion.

Button gave us his review of the new model as we rode in the passenger seat around Lotus’s Hethel test track. “Looking at a car is important, the beauty of it, but it’s when you open the door and you get in, everything should feel just right, you should feel part of that car. You do with this. The Emira is a small car, but I feel totally at home in here,” Button told us.

After a few exciting laps, it began to rain – yet this meant we got to see another side of the Emira. The V6 engine and manual gearbox were excellent, Button said, and the steering was “super-responsive”. In fact, he said “I don’t want to call it a junior supercar, but I think this would give a lot of supercars a run for their money on a track.”

New Lotus Emira driven: first review by Jenson Button

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