ANYONE doing an undergraduate course in irony will no doubt remember this month well. At the same time that we’re all being told to lost 5lb to help the NHS, we can stuff our faces because the government’s picking up half the tab if we eat out. Yum!
However, there is apparently another obesity crisis that needs nipping in the bud sooner rather than later. I’m afraid, according to a new campaign that you might have seen doing the rounds in the nationals this week, that our cars are all getting a bit on the podgy side.
So obviously we need to ban the adverts encouraging us all to buy them.
The New Weather Institute’s latest Badvertising campaign points out that four in ten vehicles is an SUV (an off-roader, or at least a vehicle purporting to be one).
They claim it’s leading to a creep of oversized cars that are too big for our parking spaces, upping pollution unnecessarily and deliberately running over squirrels (okay, I made that last one up).
It sort of has a point. So far this year, Nissan’s Qashqai is the nation’s fifth best-selling new car, outselling cars like the MINI and the VW Polo, and it quietly dropped the Pulsar two years ago because people didn’t want it. Kia’s Sportage is in the top ten list too, and VW’s Tiguan makes fairly frequent visits to the sharp end of the car sales stats too. Yet I can’t imagine that the NWI’s solution - a cigarettes-esque advertising ban – is going to make a jot of difference. Dig a little deeper, and for all the talk about SUVs, what it actually wants is measures to curb the most polluting third of new cars sold in the UK and motors that it says are too large for UK parking spaces.
You’d think stretch limos, Lamborghini Aventadors and AMG-tuned S-Class Mercs would be right in the firing line, but the tone of their campaign seems to target anyone with a Range Rover Evoque instead.
In fact, the government already has measures to stop us all going out and buying brand-new G-Class Mercs for the school run; even if you’re committed enough to stump up the exorbitantly high road tax on one for the first year, you then have to live with paying more at the pumps, and a bit more again if you’re thinking of venturing into London.
SUVs cost more too – a Captur, for instance, starts at £3k more than a Clio – but that still doesn’t stop us snapping them up.
I’m far more carrot than stick on this one; surely the solution is to make cleaner cars better, so that people actually want them.
We need to make it worth the carmakers’ while to do this, and at the moment the regulations seem to be actively discouraging it.
It’s far less profitable to engineer smaller cars for eco-friendly tech, which is why the tiniest hatchbacks are quietly being dropped and why there’s a proliferation of hybrid SUV-esque hatchbacks in the first place.
Banning ads on SUVs is nonsense – but I suspect if the government does, it’ll probably do it in tandem with grants to boost BMW X5 sales. If it works for food, why not for cars too?
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly