Friday, December 10, 2010

Chelsea - 4x4 capital

Apparently Chelsea has the highest proportion of 4x4 SUV ownership in the country. A poll showed that 17.8 per cent of vehicles in SW3, in Kensington and Chelsea, were 4x4s. Nearby W8 was next with 17.4 per cent. And guess what, that pretty much matches the Congestion Charge Western Extension Zone area which Boris is intent on abolishing.

4x4s are useful if you own a farm or need to venture off-road. But we know already that 99% of SUVs never get their tyres muddy. Indeed, they're usually shod with summer road tyres, so they're not even much use off-road or in snowy conditions.

And they're not harmless. They pose a significant hazard to pedestrians and cyclists, both because of their poor pedestrian safety performance and because their size obstructs a pedestrian's or cyclist's view of the road (especially with the near-ubiquitous privacy glass). A full-size 4x4 typically emits nearly twice as much CO2 as an average car, making ownership in the age of climate change a pretty irresponsible indulgence. That fits with the manufacturers own research which shows 4x4 owners are self-centred, insecure and vain.

Is it the Government's job to tell people what to drive? It's a bit difficult to argue the contrary given that we can't meet our carbon-reduction commitments without decarbonizing road transport. The new 'showroom tax' and VED rates introduced by the Labour administration have not had the desired effect: 4x4 sales have actually increased. That's unsurprising because anyone who wants to spend £30,000+ on a car that struggles to better 20MPG is unlikely to be troubled by a £950 increase in purchase price. It's no use the Government pretending that the SUV market sector is small either: 4x4s and MPVs account for one in eight cars sold. It'll take a lot of electric cars to offset that.

The government needs to manage out the urban 4x4. Why? Because climate change will affect everyone. We're all in it together. It is divisive and iniquitous to allow one group of people to 'opt out' of their responsibility for mitigating it. Allowing 4x4s as a vanity purchase rather than a necessity sends a clear signal that the Government is happy for people to continue to aspire to a high-carbon lifestyle.

1 comment:

  1. They're also intended to give their drivers a sense of power and invulnerability, intimidating the more vulnerable road user. Marques like Range Rover are now producing urban 4x4s - see my critique here: