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.