Blog : Diesel scrappage – here we go again…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Oh dear – it looks like the issue of diesel scrappage is on the agenda again. According to a story by the BBC, drivers could be offered up to £2000 to chop in their old cars. Unlike the earlier scrappage scheme, which was instigated to keep the motor industry turning in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis, this time, it’s all about clean air and the health of city dwellers.

Of course, there’s a compelling case to clean up the cities. There’s no denying that air quality is not getting better, despite cars seemingly getting cleaner – but that’s because they’re putting out less CO2, while the particulates and NOx remained pretty much unchanged, while the number of cars on the road escalated.

The BBC says, ‘diesel cars emit nitrogen oxides linked to lung conditions such as asthma, with older models said to be particularly polluting. The UK had almost 12,000 premature deaths linked to nitrogen dioxide in 2013, according to the European Environment Agency. That was the second-highest total in Europe after Italy.’

The car industry did it to itself

And with 11.2 million diesel cars on UK roads, 17 per cent of which are more than 12 years old, it’s obvious that these aging cars are going to be targeted. Of course, the car industry did itself no favours, with the Volkswagen Group being caught with its pants down and dragged through Dieselgate. And with that, a generation of car buyers had their trust in the industry eroded – and, more precisely, challenge the misguided belief that diesel was good.

After all, the Government, the taxman, told them it was.

Scrappage will happen again, and if it means air quality in the cities is improved then this is a good thing. Extra air pollution, over and above test figures, from Volkswagen diesels in Germany is thought to have produced 1200 early deaths between 2008 and 2015. It’s not just the cars – blame owners who don’t service, or even use, their cars properly.

A recent French Government study found that four out of 52 diesel cars met emission limits, and half those in Dutch tests showed ‘non-standard’ behaviour. Dieselgate, yeah. But it’s more than that.

So it’s a good thing, yeah?

Well, no. Just as in 2008-2009, I find myself utterly against the use of scrappage as a blunt instrument to change the shape of the nation’s car parc. What will happen? We’ll end up with airfields of more discarded cars, many with lots of useful life left in them. We’ll end up with families buying cars on credit that they won’t be able to replace when interest rates go up – which they will.

It’ll completely destroy the supply of well-priced used cars in a few years’ time. And, once again, it will reinforce the contemporary view that disposability is good, and cars are disposable white goods that should be replaced every three years. It’s against the real truth, which is that if you want to preach the environmental message, encourage ethical use of older cars, keep them well serviced and use them for longer.

And maybe slow down the sausage machine churning out tens and tens of millions of new cars across Europe every year.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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33 Comments

  1. Well I’m keeping Alison, my Audi A2 diesel. She is well maintained and an emerging classic.

    Nothing much can touch a diesel car for efficiency; Alison is 14 and can still return up to 69 MPG…

    So if something burns less fuel, it is by its nature better for the environment.

    I reckon these tuning and exhaust companies are missing a trick.

    If buses and trucks can be adapted to meet stricter emissions regulations, so too can cars.

    Which would be far cheaper than buying a new car and all the extra damage to the environment that comes with it.

    • The cars could meet the standards if there was the will at manufacturer level and the public would pay the price of the car with all the technology required to clean up the exhaust.
      An HGV or bus with £150,000 price tags can swallow those costs, but that is not the case with a £15,000 diesel VW Polo

  2. Please don’t tell me that Focus in the background in that photo is about to be scrapped? It looks in mint condition.

  3. That Citroën Xantia should be exempt. Its so ugly that its a lesson to all budding car design students how not to do it

    • Am I looking at the same picture as you? Or are you just trolling?

      The Xantia was an elegant, handsome design.
      Not a head turned by any means, but not as awkward as the original mk1 C5.
      And certainly compared to the “van with windows and roof rails” school of design that is churning out endless SUVs these days.

      • I’ll go with that, the Xantia was a good looking car in its day. Bit, despite that wonderful and sadly missed hydraulic suspension, it just wasn’t that good to drive though.

  4. But what are they doing to slow the sale of new cars with tractor engines? Not much point in scrapping order ones if they are just going to buy another. They should of course be removing all the tax incentives for diesel which should never have been put in place initially. Then those who actually needed one would still buy them but those who had no real need (anyone doing under 15k/yr) would be buying petrol.

    As someone who suffers chronic asthma, and has nearly been killed by it the reduction in diesels can’t happen fast enough but this is not the way

    • Not very hot on tractor engine design are you. The last car to share a tractor engine was the Standard Vanguard Vignale, a pretty little 4 door saloon (until someone started it up, and that if I remember rightly was a petrol engine, got the shock of my life when one drove past).
      About all the road vehicle diesels & agricultural diesel engines share is the fuel.
      Incidentally in your case I would suggest you look a little more towards the stratified charge direct injection petrol engines rather than diesel, the microparticulates from those are an order of magnitude nastier for asthma than diesel fumes, not to mention the aromatics in newer petrol blends..
      £30,000 might be a sensible payment to get a hybrid or electric, 2k is an insult at best but worst of all, let’s say everyone suitable for this suddenly inherits a spare 70 grand and buys a Tesla – woo hoo for the greentards – congratulations – you’ve moved the pollution from ground level (and clean in comparison) Euro 4,5,6 diesels and now it’s pouring from really dirty old powerstations that inject it right into the atmosphere. A great day for the planet.

      • Diesel engine = Tractor engine, it’s where they should have stayed, in trying to make it acceptable as a car engine they have destroyed it. There is a fuel that works perfectly well, LPG near zero emissions. And your wrong on stratified charge engines, they were so clean in 1974 that California exempted them from having cats fitted (Honda CVCC)

      • First coal-free day in Britain since Industrial Revolution – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39675418

        Clarkson used the argument that electric cars just switch the pollution to somewhere else and it is nonsense used by those not wishing to change.

        Even if it were true at least it’s switching it to where people aren’t dying of asthma where pollution levels are lower rather than concentrated in towns.

        But really the trick is to switch the production to clean forms and switching off coal is just the start. Clean renewables with a network of storage units to level supply to demand is the answer – Tesla power walls for example or using the batteries in electric cars as a storage medium when not needed to power the car.

        I love driving an internal combustion engine and they have their place to power cars for leisure and pleaseure. But for efficient transport in congested and polluted cities we need to move forward.

        In the steam engine v car race Clarkson said that the train was 19 century technology vs the car’s 20th century. Time we moved into the 21st for transport in cities whilst keeping cars for pleasure or where they are most efficient – not in towns

    • The Autumn 2017 Budget is likely to contain measures to change the balance of the VED taxation advantage away from the discredited diesel car. The same budget may also be the announcement of a scrapping scheme, if the howls of professional lobbyists representing the car makers can be resisted by our politicians, then expect the scheme to be confined to sale of a new petrol car for destruction of a diesel car.

  5. Here’s a thought on how to do it properly.

    1. Make a list of all powertrains you need or want to replace.

    2. Create a hybrid or electric powertrain/powertrains that will fit the vehicles affected, along with mounting kits etc and test.

    3. Examine all the affected vehicles registered – refit those that can be salvaged and repair as necessary for safety – make payments equal to a decent replacement for those that can’t.

    4. Install for free the relevant charging equipment & train owners in its use.. (you do not want 480v ending up where it isn’t wanted).

    I remember meeting a couple in their 90s at a car show once. They’d a showroom perfect 30s saloon (I don’t remember the model but Austin 14 rings a bell & matching caravan – better than perfect condition – and it was the ONLY CAR THEY’D EVER OWNED. Some modern cars can’t manage 30 DAYS, let alone 65 years, some (as happened recently) blow up and kill their owners.
    The governments should stop this idiotic screwing about. All road vehicles should be retrofitted with a mandatory standard engine mounting system with standard placements for fuel lines, cooling, lubrication feeds, and all powertrains should be configured accordingly so anything will fit anywhere (space allowing). We’ve been doing that on military vehicles for over 40 years, it’s not rocket science.
    I’d love to get hold of an Accent MVI, pull the engine and drop it into a Sceptre or a 16/60.. A nice overdrive box and a reasonably modern efficient engine.
    Just imagine if BL/ROVER/ARG had offered 5 yearly upgrades to owners like Tatra and others did, they’d possibly still be in business..
    And will someone please explain to me why on earth we need a 500hp Vauxhall Insipid?!

    • “I’d love to get hold of an Accent MVI, pull the engine and drop it into a Sceptre or a 16/60.”

      Sounds like you want a restomod. They exist, but they’re not cheap to build! And after you’ve spent thousands building your Hyundai-engined Humber Sceptre (HyHum? HumDai?) you’ve still got an old slow car with no modern safety features, no cupholders and no Bluetooth 🙂

    • Retrofitting old cars with newer power-trains, what is this Cuba? Interesting as a one off but not cost effective for production.Think of all the additional compliance testing required. VW can’t figure out an economic way to fix most of their US diesels it isn’t easy. I work with NVH systems, no way you could have standard mounts with all the various engines. Diesels have completely different vibration resonance points.

      Do you not do an emission test on your vehicles? In most urban area of the US if it doesn’t pass emissions it has to be fixed before you can get your registration renewed.

      Just tighten the emission test to get the biggest polluters out of the fleet, if the vehicle can’t be repaired it’s done.

  6. Ps. If the original power rating was say 86/114 hp/lb.ft – then the new powertrain should be as close to equal to that as possible. There is zero point doing all that work to gain efficiency & then putting in a 200hp powertrain.

  7. The diesel particulates issues is primarily an urban one, it makes no sense to pay someone living in rural Lincolnshire or Herefordshire to scrap their diesel, as there are no pollution problems there

    In cities, and especially London, it’s very different. Indeed my 2002 npetrol Focus will be caught by a pollution tax which will cover much of London in a couple of years

    • Though London has a brilliant public transport system, I don’t think anyone could argue for the neccessity for potentially 1 person per car sitting idling diesel engines.

    • The slight problem with that being that if I turn right and drive 2 miles I’m slap bang in the middle of the oldest town in the UK but if I turn left, and drive about the same distance, I’m in tiny villages that were behind the times when they were writing the Domesday Book..
      While in my lifetime I have driven inside London precisely twice, I drive into an urban area several times a month (albeit in a petrol car), and I noticed the change in air quality even before the NHS wrecked my lungs.. That’s without mentioning the famous London “black snot”..
      There really isn’t any such thing as a country driver anymore because even if *you* don’t drive into/out of town, the grocery delivery vans and the like wil
      Clean area generation (solar on every roof, wind, thorium based atomic), off peak storage and multi speed transmission electric vehicles makes sense but the whole thing has to be clean or it’s throwing good after bad.

  8. A few minutes perusing the results of DfT post-VW dieselgate emission tests reveals that at the present time there aren’t any new diesel cars on sale which are truly adequate in emissions compliance to the Eu6 regulations suitable to justify a diesel for diesel scrappage scheme.
    The car manufacturers admit their cars cannot truly comply with Eu 6 for diesel cars, they had to negotiate a derogation from Eu6 regulations in the form of a conformity factor,( why not be honest and call it a non-conformity factor) of 210% ( more than double the Eu6 limit for Nox ) to run for the next couple of years.
    If there is to such a scrappage scheme, it should be confined to diesel exchanged for petrol cars .

  9. Whilst it can’t be denied that diesel vehicles do produce more harmful NOx emissions than petrol powered vehicles,
    the motor industry needs to focus more on reducing NOx emissions for all new vehicles produced.
    I recall reading an article a while ago in the Sunday Times, which reported that newer so called eco friendly turbo charged petrol engines were just as harmful:

    https://www.driving.co.uk/news/eco-engines-are-among-the-most-polluting-according-to-new-emissions-index/

  10. Not the greatest news I’ve heard as i bought a mint ZR TD yesterday, no way that is going in the scheme

  11. I drive a late build and registered MG ZR turbo-diesel which I absolutely enjoy driving, so I definitely won’t be looking to chop it in and buy something else.

    Do I feel I could be helping to reduce the emissions of an older diesel engine such as this? No, because it is properly serviced and I rarely drive it on journeys less than 10 miles long. Unlike a lot of people, I fail to see the benefits of using a car for short stop-start journeys or being sat in a car stuck in congested towns and cities which is consuming fuel but not moving very far. In terms of fuel costs it is a complete waste of money.

    Instead I commute to work on a bus, which saves me money, takes only 20 minutes longer compared to driving a car and someone else is in the driving seat while I nod off in a comfy leather trimmed seat. If you are able to walk why use the car for short, meaningless trips less than a mile long or for taking your children to school when you live just five minutes away? Health-wise, I feel all the better for walking.

    Then at the weekend, if I need to, I can drive the ZR on a longer journey and hopefully enjoy the driving experience.

    Diesel-powered cars are not the real problem here, it is society’s reluctance to be more considerate and logical in how they use a car. Having a scrappage scheme for older diesel cars will definitely not address the wider underlying problem.

    • Intelligent use of the best transport on the day rather than just using the car every time good stuff. That 20 min bus ride in decent weather may be good on a bike sometimes and gets you very fit

  12. A click-bait article this 😉
    If a scrappage scheme is announced, the goverment should force the car makers to stump up at least a 25% discount for any replaced vehicles. After all, why should the consumer be stumping up for the fact that the motor manufacturers malfeasance.

    What are the UK customers getting, are they getting compo and a new car like the Americans? No, sold short again…

  13. So much nonsense in the media on this subject……
    Diesel was encouraged by the government because it is fundamentally more efficient. This means less co2 and this is the issue concerning global warming. This move to diesel has had a massive effect on co2 reduction in the UK. Manufacturers supported this strategy by subsidising the price of diesel variants, again to help achieve their own “agreed” fleet co2 targets.
    This could not continue, diesel engines are more expensive and heavier than petrol. Many manufacturers opted for a strategy of downsized high performance / high efficiency petrol engines to preserve their profit margins and still meet co2 targets. The introduction of EU 6 regulations made the diesel option more costly and difficult for smaller cars. EU 6 reduces diesel noX emissions to close to that of petrol engines. (30% more instead of 300% for EU 5)
    The additional cost of EU 6 relates to uria after treatment of exhaust gases – Adblue should be Adgreen I reckon!
    EU 6 diesel is the perfect solution for larger vehicles. Efficient and clean.
    Small cars will not really be able to afford this extra kit and small diesels will gradually disappear from the UK new car market.
    It is not easy to retrofit the Uria kit onto an existing vehicle for manufacturers – hence the VW dieselgate. You need to find space for a new tank and the filler system. The smaller the tank, the more convenient the filler needs to be. Big tank means you do it on a service and the customer does not need to handle the Adblue (piss!). I assume that VW could not achieve the tank size and so decided to reduce the Adblue consumption instead. Still can’t believe they did it.

  14. Also in recent years, diesels have become far more complicated, which means when something goes wrong, they can be very expensive to repair. The old days of a simple diesel engine which could do 200,000 miles without a fault are over, many can develop electronic faults after three years that can cost four figures to repair. Now that there’s no price advantage with diesel and small capacity, high power petrol engines are nearly as economical and powerful, I can imagine diesel powered new cars declining rapidly in popularity.
    This is a big shame in a way, though, as diesel cars from the nineties and early noughties were some of the most reliable and definitely economical cars of their day. I know people on here wax lyrical about the durability of the Peugeot Citroen XUD, which was one of the first diesel engines in the world and which was in production for 16 years. Also Austin Rover’s first dalliance with diesel in the Maestro and Montego that endowed the cars with 50-60 mpg economy and engines that were almost unbreakable( something that couldn’t be said about petrol versions of these cars).

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