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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Business news

£180m takeover deal seen as good news for Malmaison’s hotel plans in Dundee and St Andrews

March 19 2013

Boutique hotel chain Malmaison has announced plans to spend £3 million renovating the St Andrews Golf Hotel on the town’s Scores, with work starting later this year. Chief executive Gary Davis also announced the chain will welcome its first paying guests to the refurbished Tay Hotel in central Dundee on September 8. The refurbishment will see the hotel close for a period of months from November to allow a 20-bed extension to be added. Afterwards the property will be rebranded as a Hotel du Vin. Mr Davis was speaking as US private equity firm KSL Capital Partners completed a reported £180m takeover deal for the 27-strong Malmaison and Hotel du Vin chain, which has been in limbo since its parent MWB Group collapsed into administration in November. Representatives of KSL, which is based in Colorado, have travelled to Scotland to see the Dundee and St Andrews hotels for themselves, and Mr Davis said they were excited about adding them to an extensive leisure portfolio which already includes the Belfry, a former Ryder Cup venue. KSL Capital Partners has been circling ever since MWB entered adminstration. Malmaison has continued to operate in the interim and is pushing ahead with its multi-million-pound redevelopment of the mothballed former Tay Hotel. Mr Davis said the KSL deal secured the future of the chain and gave it access to significant funds for future growth. While MWB Group racked up multi-million-pound losses, the hotel arm of the company remained profitable. He said KSL representatives had been to the region to tour both the Dundee site and St Andrews hotel and had been impressed by what they saw. “We visited Dundee a few weeks ago with KSL and they had a good look at the location and the development of the city with the V&A and the waterfront,” he said. “The investment really excited them and they thought the building was amazing. I also took them to St Andrews and they loved the location there too. “St Andrews is a fantastic fit for the Hotel Du Vin brand and with this KSL announcement it now means we have the capital to put into the project.”


Malmaison hotel plans for Tay Hotel could lift Dundee tourism

May 10 2011

Plans by boutique hotel chain Malmaison to give the Tay Hotel a new lease of life show Dundee's potential to become a major tourist destination, it has been argued. The Courier revealed on Monday that the popular hotel chain is behind proposals for an ambitious redevelopment of the Tay Hotel. Although still a landmark building in the city centre, the hotel has been derelict since 1997 when it was closed down after a small fire. However, Malmaison is now working with developers with a view to transforming the building into a 91-room boutique hotel. Dundee City Council development convener Will Dawson said the proposal, along with Unicorn Property's plan to turn Customs House into a similarly upmarket hotel, would help transform perceptions of Dundee at home and abroad. He said, "It shows a lot of confidence in the city having such a prestigious hotel coming here and a lot of belief in what we've got planned for the waterfront." Mr Dawson said Malmaison's plans to open a hotel in Dundee show the city is shedding the negative image it has often been tarred with in the past. "That's the whole thinking behind a lot of what we have been working towards with things like the One City, Many Discoveries campaign. The negative impression Dundee has had wasn't deserved at all. To have two major opportunities in Dundee like Malmaison and Customs House shows a lot of positive support for Dundee and a lot of confidence in the future. "I think the V&A has helped a lot with the decisions that these companies have made."LeadingHe added that the developments like Malmaison and plans for the V&A at Dundee will help turn the city into a leading tourist destination. "It's not before time. Dundee already has a lot to offer people, including world-class attractions like Discovery Point and The McManus," Mr Dawson said. Dundee would be home to Malmaison's 13th hotel if the company proceeds with its plans. Malmaison operates hotels in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and Reading. Formed in 1994, the group is owned by MWB Group Holdings. The company also owns the Hotel du Vin chain, which includes the prestigious Glasgow hotel One Devonshire Gardens. MWB bought the Malmaison chain for £77 million in 2000 when it had just five hotels. MWB then paid £66.4 million for six Hotel du Vin hotels four years later. The company's pre-tax losses rose from £7.8 million to £11.6 million in the last six months of 2010 while its debts rose to £302 million, primarily because of the expansion of its hotels portfolio. According to the company's interim report published last month, the company aims to reduce Malmaison's debt in order to pay for further expansion of the brand. It also reveals that although the Tay Hotel may become part of the Malmaison group, it is unlikely the firm will buy the building outright. "As part of this debt reduction, we aim to reduce debt within Malmaison and Hotel du Vin (Malmaison), so as to further improve the level of gearing and to facilitate the planned expansion of our hotel brands both within the UK and, in appropriate circumstances, abroad," it states. "This proposed expansion will follow the more traditional hotel business model in that we will take either operating leases or negotiate operating and management agreements, rather than purchasing property which we would own directly. By adopting this approach we will avoid exposure to the considerable risks inherent in property investment, development and management."

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Business news

Prestigious BP oil contract for Dundee project management training company

June 7 2017

Dundee-headquartered training provider 20/20 Business Insight has won a prestigious contract with one of the world’s leading oil and gas companies. The Broughty Ferry-based company, which also has offices in Aberdeen, London and the USA, has been awarded preferred supplier status under a master contract by BP for providing project management training globally. Ironically, the prestigious account has been won after 20/20 stepped away from its previous focus almost entirely on the oil and gas sector – adding BP to a diverse client portfolio that now includes Wood Group, Centrica, Balfour Beatty, British Aerospace, Hinckley Point, Network Rail, Diageo and Wm Grant. Chief executive officer Tony Marks, who said the new status came off the back of recent big contract wins within the nuclear power industry, added: “20|20 are delighted to have been awarded preferred supplier status under a master contract by BP for providing project management training globally. “It’s a great team performance in demonstrating our international capability and upstream oil industry experience to win this prestigious account.” 20|20 Business Insight, which employs 26 staff and had revenues of £2.84 million last year, is a full service, project management, business and leadership training and consulting company who deliver training courses and consulting services throughout the world. It is the largest independent provider of project management training courses in the UK. The consulting team work with companies to analyse competence baselines and deliver maturity assessments, design bespoke and accredited training programmes, create handbooks and manuals, implement project management procedures and protocols and then measure and report effectiveness. Mr Marks said that crucially, they had the ability to deliver internationally-accredited training and consulting anywhere in the world, primarily in oil and gas, engineering and construction, utilities, nuclear, food and drink However, despite an international outlook, they remained proud to be rooted in Dundee. “We are big fans of Dundee and supporters of the Tay Cities Deal to bring jobs, including de-commissioning, to Dundee,” he added. “When we started in 2003, we were almost exclusively in the oil and gas sector before diversifying into other sectors. We were lucky because two years ago the oil and gas sector started to decline, and accounts for around 10% of the work we do now.” Mr Marks has been involved in business for 27 years and has seen four or five cycles based on the oil barrel price changing. During that period, the level of business has come back smaller each time. “So it’s quite interesting we are back in the oil and gas sector now,” he added. He said the BP deal had been going on behind the scenes for nine months and “should mean quite a jump in business for us.” He added: “It’s not a guarantee of any level of work. But the revenue should be significant and comes off the back of other big contract wins.”

Business news

Dundee hotel development a highlight in ‘challenging’ times for Malmaison

May 18 2012

The man in charge of bringing a branch of upmarket hotel chain Malmaison to Dundee says the development remains on course to open next summer despite ''hard going'' in the marketplace. Chief executive Gary Davis said the city's prominent new 91-room hotel will open for business in July next year, creating a city landmark. But he admitted that the company is facing tough conditions as parent MWB Group Holdings used a trading update for the first three months of 2012 to warn of an ''extremely challenging'' time in the hospitality industry. ''Generally business is still hard-going in terms of the economy,'' Mr Davis said. ''We're doing well to maintain a little bit of a pick-up, but we're mindful of the fact that the economy is very tough.'' MWB said it had made a string of changes at boardroom level since reporting a £15.8m loss between July and December, and was preparing to embark on a drive to raise additional capital. The hotel business which also includes the Hotel du Vin chain lost more than £7.2m during the last six months of the year and took steps to reduce its debt by around £100m. Thursday's statement to the markets said the firm is continuing its focus on reducing debt levels and raising capital. However, it also pinpointed the announcement of the highly-anticipated Dundee site, at the former Tay Hotel, as a particular highlight. Malmaison signed a 35-year operating lease with developer MEC Services earlier this year, with the new premises expected to create around 120 jobs. Mr Davis said: ''Builders are on site and we are currently working on our internal designs for bedrooms and the restaurant and other public spaces. ''Dundee is our first new hotel for three years so, while we're still going to keep the same Malmaison feel, it will be very much today's look rather than the designs of a few year ago. ''It will still have the DNA of a Malmaison hotel, but of what one should be in the future.'' MWB also praised the Malmaison's new management team for their positive impact, including efforts to raise occupancy levels, room rates and earnings, whilst challenging costs. ''Their efforts to maximise occupancies and revenues and to manage the cost base are already making a difference,'' the MWB statement read. Malmaison has also simplified its regional management structure. Meanwhile, the group's Bistro du Vin restaurants will be sold after continuing to accumulate losses since launch nine months ago.

Man bailed in M20 murder probe

February 23 2018

A man who was arrested on suspicion of murder after the body of a woman was found on the M20 has been released on bail.The body was discovered by police on the London-bound carriageway near Ashford at 6.05pm on Tuesday. The road was closed between junctions 9 and 10 for nearly 24 hours while the scene was investigated.Officers appealed for the driver of a silver Nissan Qashqai to come forward and a man handed himself in at a police station on Wednesday evening, Kent Police said.On Friday morning the force said the man had been released on bail until March 15.The circumstances surrounding the death of the 32-year-old from Kent remain a mystery and detectives are continuing to investigate.A post-mortem is expected to take place at midday on Friday.Police are still appealing for drivers who were on the road at the time to check their vehicles for signs of a collision, and for anyone with dash cam footage or who saw a Nissan Qashqai with the registration KY15 WWX at the time of the incident to come forward.

M20 body identified as man arrested in murder probe

February 22 2018

Police have identified the body found on the M20 as a 32-year-old woman from Kent.A man arrested on suspicion of murder remains in custody, Kent Police said on Thursday afternoon.Officers discovered the body on the London-bound carriageway near Ashford at 6.05pm on Tuesday. The road was closed between junctions 9 and 10 for nearly 24 hours while the scene was investigated.Officers initially appealed for the driver of a silver Nissan Qashqai to come forward and a man handed himself in at a police station on Wednesday evening.The incident caused hours of delays with between six and seven miles of queues stretching back to junction 11 and a diversion was in place.The road reopened shortly before 3pm on Wednesday.An accountant from Ashford told Press Association of his shock at the scene he saw while driving on to the coastbound stretch of motorway at about 6.20pm on Tuesday while emergency services were on the opposite side of the road.The 21-year-old, who asked not to be named, said: “As I entered the motorway I expected to see a crash, when I suddenly realised that it wasn’t and unfortunately it appeared to be a body lying in the central lane with police and ambulance staff around it.“Because of the torches being shone by police (I could see) it appeared that the body had been struck by vehicles.“It was very shocking. It is not a sight I would want anyone to witness.“My condolences are with the family of the deceased.”Police are still appealing for drivers who were on the road at the time to check their vehicles for signs of a collision, and for anyone with dash cam footage or who saw the Nissan Qashqai with the registration KY15 WWX at the time of the incident to come forward.

Motoring news

Audi showcases raft of new cars

June 29 2016

Audi threw everything it had at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend, with no fewer than nine upcoming models making their UK debuts. One of the most interesting – and affordable – was the new Q2. Audi’s smallest crossover yet, it’ll sit underneath the Q3, Q5 and big ole Q7. It will be available as a front wheel drive or with Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system. Under the skin there’s a choice of three TFSI petrol and three TDI diesels, with Audi’s 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol offering 114bhp, the 1.4 litre four-cylinder sitting below the 187bhp 2,.0 litre TFSI. Diesel options are the 1.6 litre TDI with 114bhp and a pair of 2.0 litre TDIs with 148bhp or 187bhp. It goes on sale later this summer with a starting price expected to be in the region of £20,000. At the other end of the price scale is the R8 V10 Spyder. The 553bhp supercar comes a year after the second generation coupe R8 was released. Audi reckons the new Spyder is 50 per cent stiffer than the last Spyder, and its canvas roof stows beneath a massive rear deck, able to open or close at speeds up to 31mph in 20 seconds. Fuel economy “improves” to just over 24mpg thanks to a new coasting function that idles the engine when it’s not needed. Expect it to cost around £130,000. In between those two extremes are a plethora of other upcoming Audis, including the new S5 Coupe, and the Audi TT RS which first revealed a year ago is hardly new but apparently it had never been seen in the UK before. A couple of Q7s were also at Goodwood, including the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which returns a claimed 156mpg, and the SQ7 – a diesel with 429bhp. There was also the refreshed A3 range. Audi’s upmarket Golf rival has been given a styling refresh along with a few new engine options. Following a trend for downsizing, there’s a 1.0 litre three -cylinder petrol unit, while a powerful 2.0 petrol engine also joins the range.