Editor’s blog: Big Motor in the slow lane

The chancellor stated in his budget that we’re well prepared for economic slowdown. Well, one of the industries already dawdling along in neutral, occupying the slow lane, is Big Motor – and it will not have heard Darling out with much pleasure. There is huge global over-supply at the moment and the pain, especially in the States, is already acute as Motown downsizes.

Darling looks as if he’s going to clobber big, new cars hard by having a special high road tax rate for year one – that amounts to an extra sales tax on powerful new gas-guzzlers, and could amount to almost 1000 for the worst offenders.

The point is that the cars that produce the most carbon dioxide are almost always the larger-engined vehicles. And it is those very vehicles on which car manufacturers make the highest margins and enable them to churn out small, fuel-thrifty vehicles further down the range, often with very little profit to be had from them at all. The Germans will be especially fed up with this as it will hit BMW, Audi and Mercedes where it hurts. Porsche is already expressing its annoyance with UK lawmakers by attempting to sue Ken Livingstone over his increased level of Congestion Charge in London for high-emitting vehicles.

The most fashionable drive around town at the moment may well be the new Fiat 500 – a friend has just ordered one but it can’t be delivered until September – but Fiat’s profit from that virtuous midget of a car is meagre indeed. And they’ve stripped out just about as much cost as they can without the things being made from plastic and paper. In the days of post-war austerity the original models did have their fair share of cardboard in them, after all…

  • http://

    Big Motor has to understand that it is a dinosaur. The fashion conscious want Fiat 500s, those watching the pennies want small diesels, and the environmentalists want small hybrids and diesels (or bikes). Only the car buying dinosaurs want the cars built by dinosaur companies. The prognosis for both is as bad as it was 10 years ago for those who thought they had a right to share their smoke with other diners in restaurants.

  • http://

    I’m with Andy Bennett.
    The car industry has got to wake up and smell the coffee. It needs to dramatically improve it’s carbon footprint. The only sensible way forward is to put some serious investment electric cars. teslamotors.com is the first serious effort at making electric motoring sexy. But the entire area – particularly fuel technology – simply hasnt had anything like
    enough money put invested in it.

  • http://

    A colleague bought me ” An inconvenient Truth”. I was shocked ( if you’ve not seen it, watch it). I looked into it more & the more I looked the worse I felt.
    Out went the Aston Martin & the Phaeton W12 ( all 12 litres of them) and in came a Skoda Octavia turbo diesel. The p/x negotiations were interesting! We have also introduced a 190gpkm upper limit on CO2 emissions on our fleet, reducing 10/year hereafter.

    Little sacrifice but big difference. I still get from A->B in the same time and when factoring in the lack of fuel breaks ( twice a day was not unusual) you actually get there faster! Win-win. And right.

    Simon Biltcliffe