Keith Adams

Would you chop this for the promise of £2000 against a new Hyundai? Neither would I
Would you chop this for the promise of £2000 against a new Hyundai? Neither would I

I found myself sporting a heavy heart as I listened to the news that the Government’s Scrappage Scheme has been extended (and now includes cars up to V-registration). Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that a strong new car market benefits us all, but the current Government sponsored initiative really, really smacks of hypocracy to me.

On one hand they tell us that getting us all into greener cars but, as we all know, the greenest form of motoring is to run old cars as long as possible with regular maintenance. Sustainability is not a difficult to grasp and yet, in the interest of short-termism, this has been overlooked in a doomed attempt to keep new cars rolling off the line.

I suppose my problem is this: the production of new cars takes up massive resources and it’s highly unlikely that the huge environmenal cost has been amortised during the ten-year period that manufacturers and legislators believe that new cars turn into scrap. Think about it for a moment: go outside, take a look at the next V-registered car you see and then tell me, all it’s good for is to allow someone a £2000 discount on an over-priced new car.

For a laugh, I took this Saab 900 to my local Volkswagen dealer – the young salesman was, of course, positively salivating at the thought of scrapping this so I could get into a new Polo. Indeed…

Yes, then, I do object to the fact that, amongst all those cars now being traded in under the Scrappage Scheme, there’s a huge number of perfectly useable, desirable cars that would serve well for years to come. Yes, they need servicing and parts – and that keeps the UK’s garage and parts supply industry in business – but running them would be far less stressful than the new car people would have you believe. More importantly, there’s no monthly payment to worry about.

That’s really my main beef with scrappage – buyers are being encouraged to go into long-term financial arrangements. How many of those buyers would have been happy with their old cars as they were? How many of those new car buyers can really afford to go into hock? Just what caused this bloody recession in the first place?

In short: let’s borrow more so we can buy more economic misery…

Keith Adams


  1. First up, I whole-heartedly agree with you about the pity of losing some – not all by any means – of the cars being handed in on scrappage. It broke my heart to learn of a perfectly good Celica GT4 come in, but the fact is it wasn’t worth £2,000 any other way and so the owner is quite within their rights to do it. And such cases are very much a tiny minority.

    Secondly, the environmental arguments are almost certainly opposite to what you suggest. In virtually every case, and certainly on average, the new cars are cleaner than the old ones so it is a net gain for every mile driven in new over old.

    As for the impact of making the cars, two things:

    1) this scheme is there only partly to get factories going again, most at about 50% the rate they were working so they are emitting a lot less than they were. The real purpose is to save jobs in dealerships and all the associated trades and businesses;

    2) the construction and dismantling of a new car accounts for about 15 – 20% of the emissions over the car’s life. The environmental “cost” of building new fuel efficient (and safer) cars is easily recovered long before ten years of average use.

    And finally, any car has to be scrapped at some time, meaning the environmental impact can be delayed, but not avoided, so the net environmental impact is zero, leaving the difference – the benefit – to come form better fuel consumption.

  2. Nice Saab by the way, I had one of these about 10 years ago. This scrap page scheme is just an attempt to get people into further debt.On the radio 2 the other day a guy from the second hand motor trade was saying there is now a shortage of cheap runarounds for first time buyers.A two grand KA is going to be no less polluting than a brand new one if you take into account the cost to the environment in making the new and scrapping the old one.

  3. In Italy we have the same situation. For every car that pollutes (Euro-2 norms and backwards) you can save 1500 € for a new Euro-5 norms car. The result is that we are trashing excellent cars and destroying a piece of history.
    Well, I am proud to drive my 10 years old Rover 618.
    Sometimes, someone say me that it’s not so green. OK.
    Here in Italy turbodiesel engined cars are the preferred on market. On the paper are green car too. But no-one seems to know that over one third of those car have tuned engines. The result is that we have an enormous amount of orrible tuned turbodiesel cars that vomit black and thick clouds of smoke every time the drivers press the throttle.
    I think that after all I’m driving a green car.

  4. @Scott Brownlee

    Could we also add in the environmental cost of importing and transporting said vehicles, as most of the cars bought are imported. Also add in that most of these cars aren’t any less polluting really. The CO2 emissions are only one small factor…

  5. The scrappage scheme seems to be a real con. Given the average cost of a new car, the government gets back in VAT roughly the same as the £1000 it chips in (for an incremental sale which normally would not happen)- typical New Labour in announcing £2000 per vehicle conveniently hiding the fact that the manufacturer is expected to cough up half of it. It has also helped to screw up the used car market. And I understand that 86% of the cars bought under scheme are made overseas – eg many are Korean, which does virtually nothing for UK component suppliers either. If they targetted it more to larger vans it might help poor old LDV, Ford Southampton and the Luton Renault/Nissan/Vauxhall JV plants. The government should do more aimed directly at UK manufacturing investment, within EU rules of course. And as for the mythical £2.3 billion support scheme don’t get me started, except that I bet Tata’s decision to close either Solihull or Castle Bromwich was partly as a result of/in retaliation to being led up the garden path by HMG and then only getting a measly £10 million – although what are Tata’s plans to assemble electric Indicas in the East Midlands and anyone car to bet what marque badge will be on their noses?

  6. It’s a topic with a lot of mis-information floating around it.

    Here is a link to a quick 5 min video summary of the main points on Prius.

    If you are looking for a cure to insomnia then go here

    One of the problems in communicating on this issue is that there is no accepted standard for comparative measure. Hence myths (I’m being polite) grow up around so-called studies that use widely varying parameters.

    One, which suggested a Jeep was better than a Prius, got to those amazing results by saying 80% of emissions came from production. Other car makers, not least Volvo, and many others experts in the field say 20%. Want to guess who paid for the study…

    With regard to transportation – i.e. shipping from Japan – it is much easier because there is an accepted shipping emission measurement formula. No, I can’t remember it, but when we worked it out for Prius we found that the share per car equated to a few hundred miles of road driving. For other less fuel efficient cars it will take longer, but it is still a very small part of the overall equation.

    Finally, we recently put ourselves up for open questioning on all things green on the Guardian web site. A lot of areas got covered so you might find an answer to your specific question here;

  7. @Keith Adams
    He’s using the SMMT figures.. which are missing siginficant factors, such as the process by which the raw materials are refined to become Steel, alluinium and palstics. Also missing are the resources used after dismantling of the car and returning its parts to usable material. And as you can probably guess these two omisions alone make up the VAST majority of the impact building a new car has, and once taken into acount the figure becomes around 80% for a modern car, although it is much lower for older cars such as ADO16 and the Morris minor (fewer electronic and plastic parts) closer to 30% despite a 15% increase on polution created while in use

  8. I’ve just got rid of my 107,000 mile Punto – and given it to the garage who repaired it to put back on the road rather than scrap it or pay for it to be repaired myself. Scrappage has always seemed very political -lets all feel better by having a new car this year, and so feel more inclined to vote to return the Government. Benefit to the UK car industry? well they only have about 20% of the new car market.

  9. I would scrap that Saab for free. The Saab 900 is by far and wide the worst vehicle I’ve driven, and that’s much. Everything in that car is wrong: it understeers heavily, seats are hard and uncomfortable, suspension is taken from a tractor, transmission whines like a pig, you name it. The only thing good about them is that if the battery is good, the starter motor will be able to start them in very cold conditions. Cold usually means snow here in Finland and the Saab goes out of the driver’s hands because of said understeer and the fact that the handbrake can’t assist you in a tight spot, because it works on front wheels.

  10. Keith,
    Your argument is well reasoned and agreeable to most of us who use this site and like to see a few older well maintained cars on the road, but you are clearly not a politition or you would understand that this scheme has nothing at all to do with the environment or even the car industry as such.

    Firstly capitalism relies on ever increasing consumption to function,and when capitalism falters as it has recently, polititions will do whatever is required to increase consumption.

    Secondly, people are inherently greedy and like to show off wealth, and successive governments have encouraged them to be be so, this scheme is just a furtherance of that policy for which they know they have a ready and willing audience, not to mention the 15% VAT they get back from every sale.
    Thirdly, why is it so important to keep car dealerships in business? They couldn’t care less for the industry I work in.Given that new cars need less maintenance than old surely if this were the intention then the more old cars on the road the better.
    I do get annoyed that a blatantly political move has been dressed as an environmental issue.
    I could go on all night but the ’82 Metro City, the ’83 Metro VDP, & ’97 MGF (with hardtop saved from a “scrappage” car!) all need attention………….

  11. Brown the Clown is so desperate to make British people feel good that he bribes them to buy a new car. Not much more to it really.

  12. @Scott Brownlee
    What a load of rubbish!
    I take it you work in sales…. us in the aftersales can see no real benefit, but a lot of lost business.
    new cars shouldnt need to be seen in the workshop for a year, where as, if we are honest, a 10 year old car will need some work doing within the same period.
    secondly, tell me what UK built cars are selling in the scrappage?
    answer… next to NONE!
    look at the uk sales figures…its small cars that are selling, Kia and Daihatsu mostly… so thats not helping our factories.
    also.. when the scrappage finishes Kia and Daihatsu dealers will suddenly find the showrooms, and PDI bays very quiet – I reckon at least 25% will close within 6 months due to the sudden slump in business…
    and the back street garages? they are already finding less work, partly due to their bread and butter cars being scrapped prematurely.
    basically… short term gain in sales – long term pain in general.

  13. @Ken Strachan
    Lot of sense on this blog. Ken and Keith you make strong points as GB is appealing to baser human nature, i.e. retail therapy. But as you both point out this is one of the reasons that we find ourselves in the mess that led to the introduction of this scheme.

    The guy at my local kia dealer has listed the following cars brought in over the last six weeks (if you are of a nervous disposition, it’s best to look away now).

    Triumph GT6
    2 Morris 1000s
    Ford Capri 2.8 injection
    Mk 2 Cortina Estate
    Hillman Imp
    5 Minis (including a Clubman and a pickup)

    This is excluding all the perfectly decent Puntos, Metros, Corsas and Micras that have been scrapped.

    This is a wasteful scheme which has introduced the joys of new car purchase and the perils of new car finance to people who previously would have had more sense.

  14. What annoys me is that you could easily ‘refresh’ a seconhand car just by getting the following things done:

    Give the car a major service, ensure all plugs, leads, fluids, etc etc, are new, and don’t overlook things such as Lambda sensor and AFM on injection cars – These sensors in particular cause some head scratching performance drops and most Ford ones, for example are cheap to replace- even new.

    Refresh the suspension. As well as getting shocks replaced or uprated, get ALL of the bushes done. Seriously it makes a massive, massive difference in a high miler, and is a must for anyone needing to modify their suspension height. Could you go slightly wider on the tyres? An MG Maestro takes 175/65 tyres – but can easily take 185/60 on those 14″ rims. In fact, I consider a complete suspension refresh the single most inportant thing in an old car not just in terms of feeling but also in safety. Look into replacing the rotors (eeeeasy job), and the pads, drums/shoes too..

    Refresh the interior – Hoovering and shampooing carpets as well as taking care of the uphiolstery can help, improve the sound system by using quality speakers and ahead unit that fit into OEM spaces (no need for crazy bass-bins in the boot). – change the pedal rubbers for new ones and cure their squeaks or restore their smooth operation – Job for WD40. Sort out the hinges. No electric windows? Find some from a model that did have them and fit them in (might have to engage brain for the electricals on this one)

    Sound proofing – A good going over with Dynamat, or equivalent can cure rattles and quieten things down a bit, make sure that the door/hatch lid seals are in new, good condition. If your bonnet doesn’t have it then some flameproof felt will also deaden the engine noise.

    Get a Haynes manual, learn about your car and prepare to get dirty :)..

  15. @Stewart
    This makes very interesting reading (the greenparty website)but I’m still confused as whether a 10 year old car in good working order is any less green than a brand new one? Also are these cars simply going to the crusher or are slightly dodgy car scrapers just ringing them back into the system. I ‘ve been seeing a lot really good clean 10 year old cars for sale latley been sold for ‘QICK SALE’ with mot/tax for a few hundred pounds, like a mint V reg Renault Meganne for £300.00? and a S reg VW polo for £350.00?

  16. @ Ross Armstrong

    I could not agree with you more! I am a firm believer in what you have said, old cars can eaisly be refreshed, I have recently brought a 1996 Renault Megane 2.0 16v Coupe and its a fantastic car, very underated, but I have renewed many parts, fitted nicer leather seats, fitted the newer dashbaords etc and my car looks in better condition than the 58 plate audi a4’s we have as company vehicles at work! Its just passed its mot this weekend with flying colours and it regularly does 40+ mpg and it cost me £600! Why on earth would I want to trade it in for a car that probably wont be as good, as fast or as cheap!

    The only upshot of this is that there appears to be a large amount of these going to local scrap yards, one of the breakers in my area has literally doubled in size in 5 or 6 months but some of the cars that are in there is sickening, was quite sad to see a gleming s plate ford focus having a forklift truck smashing into the side of it!

    I do have one slight happy storey on the scrappage, my best friend is a car dealer who works for a local ford dealership, in came a 1984 Fiesta mk2 with 9k on the clock which bar a little rust on the steel wheels looked a1, still had the dealer plates from 1984, dealer stickers, even the tax disk holder was from when the car was new and guess what that came in on scrapage too! It turns out it was one of the 1st cars sold by that dealership so the dealer princible took a bit of a shine to it, he brought it off them for 2k and now it tours around the local dealerships parked up next to the brand new model and its not going anywhere near a crusher!

  17. And when it comes to classics utilising the VED concession of ‘historic’ status, then it seems contradictory for the government on the one hand to classify the cars as ‘historic’ and then incentivise their destruction…

  18. Before this was announced, I had a debate with people on the environmental policies for cars, and suggested a sliding scale of return with no “finite” range on the scheme.

    Scrap a car before it is 10, you get nothing.
    Scrap a car at 12 years, you get £250
    13, you get £500
    14, £750, 15 £1000.

    After 21 years they are considered “historic” and benefit from lower taxation – and get no credit towards a new car.

    However, there’s a crucial difference to what I proposed.

    You would ONLY get those benefits if the car had failed the MOT on several points. Bodywork corrosion sufficient to cause an MOT failure would be an automatic offer of the certificate; combined issues like brake pipes, suspension wear, would be differently weighted. Likewise emissions failures.

    If the car had to be scrapped due to engine failure or similar, a similar scheme could operate, but the idea is to encourage people to maintain their old cars properly.

    Ross: Newer cars are harder to do that sort of thing with – I’m going over my 1992 Golf Cabrio and it’s refreshingly easy to work on and cheap to maintain. My 500SL of the same era would be painful to give a full refresh to; though I intend to do so gradually if I don’t buy a newer one. I’ve often wondered how many people would consider a “refresh” service for older bangers a good investment – if you took £1000, the GSF parts catalogue and 8 hours, you could take a nice solid Mk II Golf and replace an awful lot of it, and then (theoretically) it’d be good for another 3-5 years (new bearings, mounts, suspension, brakes, coolant, seals, water pump etc). Cheap motoring if you can plan that far ahead, IMO.

  19. @Richard Kilpatrick
    I agree with keeping older cars running – but for the average punter who is too lazy to open the bonnet, they won’t be able to refresh the cars themselves, and for even a mk2 Golf, £1000 may do discs, pads, shocks and springs and the labour to fit. But that’s all. It’ll still be on ageing exhaust, starter, alternator, clutch, gear linkage etc. Plus a set of tyres for it will eat £250, and that’s putting them onto corroded or peeling standard steels of alloys. The difficulty is, consumer durables have become so much cheaper, in real terms.

    Heck, back in the early 1970s, a mk3 Cortina cost about 10% more than the annual average salary. These days, the annual average salary is listed at around £30K, so £33K would buy you a ??? Imagine paying £33K for a four door car that could barely crack 100mph, and corrode away in 7 winters’ use.

    That’s how good the moderns have become.

  20. @Dave Richards
    I guess it will still be cheaper than the depreciation from a new car. Problem is three and four year old cars are so good, there really isn’t a need to buy a new car.

    I wonder how this scheme will be judged in five years time, when hopefully some economic stability has returned.

  21. Dave: It’s not really new information for me – I’ve made the same point before on here regarding costs of cars, relatively, and indeed have run contract hire cars in preference to bangers for similar reasons. RX8 at £199/month or £300 every couple of months on an elderly car that lets me down and is frankly, much less pleasant to drive? However, I also think new cars should be very heavily taxed to reflect their environmental impact – 40% at least. This would make a £10,000 Focus a £14,000 Focus – if someone were moving from a 15 year old, end-of-life vehicle with their destruction credit, it would pretty much be the difference between having an entry level and a slightly higher spec model (and indeed, I’d expect purchasers to see the cars as a much longer term “expense”; £14000 over 5-7 years, instead of 3).

    But a skilled mechanic with moderate facilities should be able to replace a lot more than that on a Golf in a day. £600 parts budget, £400 for a day’s work (less operating costs inevitably)… It would need a new way of working, but I think it’s feasible with the exception of the clutch. Certainly the rear dampers are only £19, the water pump on my Cabrio was £29 – parts for a lot of European cars are astoundingly cheap.

  22. All the studies pointing out that it would be ‘greener’ to scrap older cars that still have useful life in them for new ones, conveniently assume that the annual mileage covered will be equal over a car’s lifespan.
    Nothing could be further from the truth. On average, cars over 10 years old cover 4,000 kms (2,500 miles) a year on average – as there’s a natural cascade effect – my company Mini Cooper covers 25,000 miles a year for four years, then it gets sold to a family that uses it as a second car, after that it will be passed on to a young lad or lass who doesn’t need the car for getting to work or school and hasn’t got the money to cover lots of miles, then if it’s lucky it will be taken on by an enthusiast as a do-er-up project and will find itself in bits in the garage more often than on the road.

    Even if assuming only 20% of the valuable resources useage and environmental pollution in a car’s lifetime happens during production, for the average older car this means that by the time the negative environmental effect of scrapping it and replacing with new is amortized, the ‘new’ car itself will be an ‘old’ one that the ill-informed government environment agencies and the motor industry want off our roads…
    Looking at the development in disposable income of the average European household, wanting to restrict the lifespan of cars to 9-10 years is completely bonkers – it could only be achieved at the cost of massive debt in addition to the present one that is quickly becoming impossible to service now that most of the economic ‘growth’ of the past 10-15 years has been proven to have had no links to genuine/demonstratable value added at all. Damaging a labour intensive, profitable and local part of the automotive industry – the aftersales and aftermarket business – to keep a basically unprofitable, capital intensive manufacturing industry that is increasingly moving its center of gravity to low-cost areas afloat doesn’t strike me as particularly clever or sustainable either.

    Oh, and if you cannot drive a classic Saab 900 Turbo spiritedly without getting terminal understeer I’d recommend some ‘advanced’ driver training. That car essentially goes where you point it up to the point where you simply ask too much if its relatively modest tyres. Of course, you can always remove the front anti-roll bar for maximum traction and adjustability – but don’t come crying to me if you run out of talent and lose the back end…

  23. Eric your last point about the under steer on a 900, I’ve never found this a problem either but they do torque steer a bit under hard excelleration in the wet(we don’t get snow just rain in the Midlands). I’ve always found the under-steer controllable and very predictable it helps if you use a decent set of tyres, I used Goodyear NCT’s.I miss my saab 900, it had a huge amount of character!@Eric van Spelde

  24. My local Alfa & Fiat dealership have had all sorts in for scrappage. A couple of cars they’ve refused to scrap and one in particular they bought outright because they refused to let it go for scrap. 1979 Princess 2200 HLS with less than 25000 miles on the clock anyone? Customer wanted to buy a Fiat 500 and put the Princess in for scrap until they refused and bought it outright from him.

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