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Motor Mouth articles 2010

Mercy killing helped to save an industry

FOR all the benefits that the car scrappage scheme has undoubtedly produced, there’s a rather sad aspect in that so many old vehicles have ended up as grotesque cubes of crushed metal.

It’s a bit like euthanasia for cars and every one of the near-400,000 vehicles that have met this grisly end must have meant a lot to someone at some time during their inanimate lives.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that quite a few decent old cars, even classics, died horrible deaths in the merciless jaws of the crusher. However, reports of 11th hour rescues also abound.

Some less scrupulous scrappers have got around the provisions of the scheme by flogging old cars overseas and satisfying the inspectors by displaying a block of unrecognisable crushed steel.

So don’t be too surprised if you spot your dearly departed, smoke-belching ancient Mercedes coughing its way through the side streets of Tirana should you choose to take your summer holidays in Albania this year.

The whole scrappage scheme was a political decision, of course, and opinion seems to be somewhat divided as to its merits and whether it has been a success, but there is no doubt that the motor trade has welcomed and embraced it. It has been a life support machine for an industry that was facing financial meltdown in the teeth of the recession and has helped keep many people in work. 

Another beneficial spin-off has been that it has taken a lot of older and less green vehicles off the road and replaced them with more carbon-efficient, economical new ones.

The scrappage scheme was originally intended to end in February or when the £400m of public money ran out but it was deemed so worthwhile that it was extended and is now due to finish at the end of this month.

The UK car industry’s main trade group, the Society of Motor Manufacturers, has announced that a total of 330,451 cars and commercial vehicles were sold through the scheme by the end of February.

The new cars sold had an average carbon dioxide output of 27% less than the vehicles they were replacing. Most of the new cars sold through the scheme were small vehicles – superminis and city runabouts – and most were petrol-engined.

Under the scrappage scheme, owners of cars at least 10 years old can get £2,000 off the price of a new vehicle, with half the cash coming from the government and the other half from the manufacturer. Some carmakers have chipped even more and have made hay. The Americans and Germans have run similar schemes.

UK car production fell 30.9% last year so it doesn’t bear thinking how bad things would have been but for the scrappage scheme, even if a fair number of hard-hearted or naïve customers have sent lovely old cars to their deaths.

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