IAIN ROBERTSON

 

There are loads of fascinating developments taking place in and around the UK motor industry, some of which are becoming major bugbears to Iain Robertson, who feels that it is about time ‘someone’ took hold…

 

In case you had not noticed, diesel is under fire. Considering how hard it can be to set diesel alight, compared to petrol, it is an intriguing situation. Yet, it does not take too deep a reflection on the fairly recent past to reveal that successive governments have promoted diesel as their preferred motive fuel. However, from a group of people, to whom politicking and messing with people’s lives is first nature, it seems as though they have experienced a Damascan revelation.

 

With in excess of 60% of the nation’s transport being propelled by diesel, as petrol fuel consumption makes running trucks, vans, trains, taxis and buses somewhat less economical, the politicians believe that levying higher taxes on users is the most viable response. Yet, these are the same ill-educated ‘professionals’, who said that diesel was less-polluting than cancer-laden petrol. Personally, I think that they have been sniffing at fuel tanks too frequently.

Having commenced their ‘hate campaign’ around five years ago, just as the nation’s motorists were eking out even higher miles per gallon, as a result of need (austerity enhanced, of course), it is not merely talk but on the ground action that is taking place. Residents of certain London districts now pay an extra levy on their already exorbitant parking fees, if they run a diesel-powered vehicle, and the present London Mayor, who really knows very little about anything, has even proposed another car crushing measure (diesel scrappage scheme), as a means to rid the capital city of its diesel fleet. You can guarantee that Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow will follow suit in their demonisation of diesel.

 

While Mayor Khan has already demanded that future taxis, even the famous Black Cabs, need to be electrified, there remains a question about the actual sources of the electricity and how ‘green’ they might be. Yet, in a cart-before-the-horse situation, while Electric Vehicles (EVs) have grown in number, notably as a means to avoid paying road tax and congestion charges, they still equate to less than two per cent of the total new car registrations annually. However, much like the great saviour that will be fuel cell technology, there are simply insufficient charging points around the country and those that were free of charge, if you will pardon the confusion, are now going to charge in monetary terms, which does not correspond with the comprehensive lack of infrastructure. Oh dear.

 

Back in 2012, there was virtually more than one electricity charging point per EV on the road. Yet, there were 85,983 EVs on our roads at the end of 2016 but only 11,736 rechargers in 4,243 locations, which means that the UK (once again) is falling behind EU targets, despite the fact that almost 90% of EV users charge their cars at home.

However, then there is the cost of acquiring an EV, for which the battery packs are no less than exorbitant, with monthly rentals (because the motorist cannot really afford them) factoring in up to another £250 per month fees. If you have ever driven an EV, the innate fear of running out of charge is enough to instil a peptic ulcer in even the fittest individual’s personal plumbing. I can fully comprehend the resistance to acquire an EV; a factor reinforced by the abysmal trade-in values offered by dealers, which is guaranteed to tilt an evergreen halo at an even more precarious angle.

 

In addition, while very few EVs weigh in at less than £20,000, most of the family-capable variants are priced markedly higher, with the eminently desirable Tesla bobbing around in £100k territory. I used to suggest that a plug-in diesel hybrid was the best response but I still think that a petrol hybrid is the way forwards, enabling the concerned motorist to punt around town in EV mode, while benefiting from the greater real world performance of a petrol engine for out-of-town forays. However, the fast-ageing chestnut of city dwellers dying from exhaust pollution holds little water, when you consider that motor vehicles are around fifty times cleaner today than they were thirty years ago.

 

All of which leads me neatly onto the runaway prices of new motorcars. They have accelerated to levels that are considerably above the purported rates of inflation and all without somebody, somewhere saying: “Hang on! This is getting ridiculous!”. Only the other week, I was driving an Audi A4, an eminently lovely motorcar that resides in archetypal Mondeo-man territory but costs a whopping 60% more than its Saarlouis-built rival. This is a medium sector machine being sold for well-nigh on £50,000. It is ludicrous…and, yet, Audis sell like fruit-cakes…mostly to fruit-cakes.

 

For a start, I thought that we were still suffering from the effects of 2008’s economic crash, from the buffer-bashing of which we have clearly not returned? ‘Brexit’ added to our woes in 2016. Yet, it appears that ‘we’, for which you can read corporate sector, allied to the rest of us, are supplementing the almost four trillion Pounds worth of consumer debt that exists in Blighty. Is it a case of acquisition obviating the fiscal aches and pains, or is it just plain senselessness? However, the commercial bandwagon steams onwards and upwards, leaving me to wonder when the bubble is going to burst.

 

However, a government starved of fags and booze tax revenues continues to strike at the path of least resistance that is the stupid British motorist. Insurance premium tax has gone up. Road Fund Licence, the renamed Vehicle Excise Duty, has gone up. Our roads are falling apart and there is insufficient cash in the pot to repair them, what’s more, there never will be sufficient cash in the pot. Our main roads are in gridlock and the inefficiency of travelling from Point A to Point B to meet appointment times has plumbed new depths.

 

The general response from government to all of this far from amusing situation is to behave like an ostrich. We are about to plough headlong into the No Man’s Land of exiting the European Union that is going to cost us a fortune. It seems that nobody in Whitehall has the bottle to tell that annoying Scottish woman to shut the f*** up about ‘oss-terrrr-itty’ and her personal desire to exit Great Britain, even though she could never balance the books in a million years. Trump is in the White House and the much vaunted European superstate is about to collapse like a House of Cards. Natural resources are drying up and the north-south divide is becoming as blunt as that between rich and poor.

 

I just want to know where we stand. I just want to know why pumping endless cash into the NHS is not resolving its dire situation. I just want to call Britain ‘Great’ again, although I fear that soubriquet is still some distance out of reach.

 

 

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).