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How the car industry is taking the lead in combatting air pollution

20171005_How the car industry is taking the lead in combatting air pollution

As the fight against air pollution intensifies, one of the main topics of speculation is whether the Government will introduce a scrappage scheme for old diesel vehicles. This would offer motorists money in exchange for trading in their old, heavily-polluting vehicles for newer, cleaner models.

Such a scheme was the subject of a parliamentary debate back in April. Sadiq Khan has been calling for one ever since he was elected Mayor of London last year. And Theresa May reportedly ordered civil servants to draw up a detailed proposal for inclusion in the recent Air Quality Plan.

Yet there’s still no sign of a government scrappage scheme. As we reported on this blog when it was published, the Air Quality Plan did not include one. Instead, it emphasised concerns about fraud, fairness and value for money, although it did promise that ministers will consider a targeted version of the scheme at some point in the future.

What scrappage schemes are manufacturers introducing?

The lack of government action has left room for car manufacturers themselves to act – and act they have. In early August, BMW launched its ‘Lower Emissions Allowance’, offering a £2,000 discount to any driver who trades in their pre-Euro 4 diesel for a new low-emission BMW. Mercedes-Benz soon followed suit with an almost identical ‘Diesel Changeover Bonus’.

Later that month, Ford introduced its own ‘New for Old’ scrappage scheme. This was bigger than BMW and Mercedes’ versions, both in scope and value. Trade in a pre-2010 diesel or petrol car for a brand-new Ford before the end of the year, and you can save between £2,000 and £4,950 off the sticker price, depending which model you choose. Van drivers can also benefit from £3,650 to £7,000 off a new Transit. Volkswagen, Nissan, Toyota, Kia and Renault have all since introduced similar schemes as well.

These new incentives show that manufacturers recognise the need to get older, more polluting vehicles off the road and move drivers towards newer, cleaner ones. Even those who choose a new diesel vehicle will be reducing their emissions, as newer diesels emit less carbon dioxide than their older counterparts, and are now subject to stricter Real Driving Emissions tests when it comes to nitrogen oxides and other pollutants.

Advocates of a government scrappage scheme have got something close to what they wanted, without the need to commit large amounts of taxpayers’ money. There may still be need for government action to supplement these schemes, especially for low-income motorists who can’t afford a brand-new car even with the manufacturers’ discounts. But, over the last couple of months, the car industry has demonstrated that it is capable of stepping up and taking action on air quality, even when the Government doesn’t.

Why leasing is important

Scrappage schemes – government-funded or otherwise – clearly have an important role to play in improving air quality. But so too does leasing. It remains the most cost-effective way for many drivers to obtain a new, cleaner vehicle. It gives people access to the newest vehicles without huge upfront costs, and without having to take on the risks that come with buying a car outright. As legislation changes and technology moves on, lessees can upgrade their vehicles to keep up, rather than being stuck with an out-of-date model that has lost its value.

Amidst all the discussion about scrappage schemes and discounts for people who choose to buy their new car outright, it’s vital that we do not lose sight of the power of leasing for everyone else.

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