Monday, July 06, 2009

Scrap Idea

The problem with democracy is that elected people are drawn to grand schemes that try and address more than one problem at once, and in doing so fail to properly address any of them.

Environmental concerns are a classic case in point. Tapping into fears about the sustainability of current levels of industrial activity is too tempting for many politiciansto avoid. And now there is a recession and ministers see opportunities all around to tap into fears of unemployment too. So we end up with bonkers initiatives like the car scrappage scheme.

According to the Government this will:
a) replace polluting old cars with environmentally friendly new ones - saving the planet
b) increase sales of new cars, saving lots of jobs

Now I must confess to having a special interest in all things motoring and I know a lot about cars; and this scheme is the biggest load of hogwash I have ever heard.

For a start it is a myth that buying a new car is ever environmentally friendly even if the new car is massively more economical than the old one. Manufacturing a car is hugely energy consumptive, estimates vary but according to research by Argonne National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy research facility actually making a Toyota Prius uses roughly the same amount of energy the car consumes in 60,000 miles of driving. So even if your new Prius used half the fuel of your old car it would still take 120,000 miles of motoring to get back to square one in planet- saving terms.

What about CO2? Well it's a bit of a myth that new cars are always more CO2 efficient than older ones. Sure old cars like Ford Cortina's are disasterous environmentally but we aren't talking about taking classic cars off the road, the scrappage scheme is aimed at ten year old motors, all the cars on this page are qualifying for scrappage under the scheme. These are cars designed in the environmentally conscious 1990's and which must pass a stringent emission test every year.

New versions of a car model are usually bigger, faster, better equipped and heavier than the old model and often the CO2 figure goes up with the newer car. And in any case the scheme is not linked to CO2 emissions so you could scrap a 1 litre Ford Fiesta and use the money to buy a 5 litre Range Rover if you wanted to.

From an environmental point of view the last thing you should do is encourage a new car to be born. Keeping your old car properly serviced, tyres fully inflated, driving carefully and using it as infrequently as possible is infinitely better for the planet than trading it in.

So if it isn't good for the planet it must be good for British jobs. Well, not necessarily. The truth is that only 15% of the cars sold in the UK are made here, and many of the components they are made from are imported. From a jobs point of view keeping your existing car running is probably more worthwhile, the numbers of people employed in making new cars in Britain is dwarfed by the number of people repairing and making and supplying replacement parts for old ones.

Aside from the environmental issue and the jobs issue there is another important reason why this plan sucks. At a time when consumers are already burdened with too much debt why is our Government spending £300m encouraging people to run up yet more debt?

Good quality marques just don't wear out, rust, or break down like they used to. A ten year old car from a maker such as Mercedes, Toyota, Volvo, VW and BMW is probably only half way through it's design life, even with 100,000 miles on the clock. To encourage perfectly good cars like these to be scrapped while encouraging consumers to pile into a new HP agreement is utter madness.

Trust me, your ten year old car is probably in far better shape than you think. There are some people who believe that this is the real reason car manufacturers needed the car scrappage scheme in the first place.

1 comment:

James.R.Skinner said...

Lets not forget that insurance companies have seen the scrappage scheme as a money maker, and now charge you a higher rate if you change cars!
What a scheme...nothing more beneficial, but just a waste of consumer money.