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MG Rover dealers enter LPG market

MG Rover is offering an aftermarket liquefied petroleum gas conversion for new and used 1.8-litre Rover and MG cars. EcoGas Systems will provide the manufacturer's automotive retailers with the equipment to convert the 1.8-litre K-series engine built by Powertrain at Longbridge.

The conversion programme affects Rover 45, Rover 75, MG ZR and MG ZS models. Ultimately, the British carmaker hopes to offer LPG conversions for all petrol models. Every MG Rover dealership in the UK is being given the opportunity to become an approved LPG installer - those who have already signed up are working on delivering converted vehicles from the autumn.

Cars fitted with the approved LPG conversion will retain their three-year product warranty. The recommended price of conversion per vehicle is £2195, but grants covering up to 50 per cent of the cost are available from Transport-Action PowerShift, the Government-backed scheme designed to offer drivers a range of incentives to convert to green fuels.

The average cost of LPG at retail filling stations is almost half that of petrol - Whitehall has frozen fuel duty on LPG until the end of 2004. Typically, LPG costs 36 pence per litre while unleaded costs 75 pence per litre, although poorer consumption using LPG makes overall running costs similar. Green-fuelled vehicles could also benefit from discounts under Mayor of London Ken Livingstone's plans to charge drivers £5 a day to enter the city.

The news comes after Powertrain announced a pilot programme to encourage Birmingham's taxi drivers to clean up their act. In co-operation with Birming-ham City Council and as part of the 'Don't Choke Britain' campaign, MG Rover is offering the city's taxi drivers low emission capabilities using LPG/petrol K-series engines.

Meanwhile Motor Sport Developments and Calor Autogas have joined forces to harness a growing UK corporate market for LPG-powered vehicles, whose numbers are forecast to more than treble to 250,000 cars and vans by 2005 as the incentive aned implications of lower benefit-in-kind company car taxation - operative since April this year - kick in.

MSD, which runs Hyundai's world rally championship team, is applying rally car engine software technology to tap the potential of the green, cost-saving fuel subsidised by grants from Transport Action PowerShift.

The joint venture, capable of an initial weekly conversion rate of 1500 vehicles, is backed by Britain's largest car leasing operator, Lloyds TSB. With up to 70 per cent of conversion costs offset by grants, MSD's Special Vehicle Engineering Division is targeting manufacturers to raise the number of models registered for LPG subsidies from the current level of just 30.

Carmakers and importers are being offered a £600 per model net registration package with individual models converted by MSD for approval by manufacturers' engineers. Proton's UK importer has also signed up with MSD and there are bi-fuel evaluation programmes involving Nissan, Fiat and Citroen, being run in co-operation with the John Lewis Partnership.

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