It has been announced that new car sales have fallen by more than five per cent in the past year, and they are expected to fall by at least a similar amount in the coming year.
Sales of new cars in the last few years have been stimulated by the marketing ploy of Personal Contract Purchase finance.
This is a way of encouraging people to buy cars at attractive rates initially, with three options at the end of the contract, of which the most attractive is to buy another new car under the same scheme.
One of the side effects of the scheme is that people are encouraged to buy larger and more expensive cars than they might if they were buying them outright or on simpler finance schemes.
The crunch comes at the end of the lease period when the purchaser is faced with the option of paying a sizeable amount to buy out the loan or just hand the keys back and walk away, or take out another contract using the residual value of the old car as deposit.
The last option is the motor industry’s way of ensuring that they not only stay in business, but increase their turnover.
During the hundred years or so since the mass manufacturing of cars began, the industry has developed its marketing methods to a fine art.
It has also refined its designs to the point where servicing and repairs can only be undertaken by appointed dealers.
The increase in the number of large cars is partly due to the change in the taxation system, which used to be related to the size of vehicle, but is no longer.
Of course, there are other reasons why people buy large cars, not all of them very sound.
But the effects of there being so many large cars on the road now impact upon other drivers in inconvenient ways.
One of these becomes evident in public car parks, which are marked out with spaces of recommended dimensions to suit ‘normal’ cars.
Large cars, particularly of the ‘Chelsea Tractor’ type, do not fit into normal spaces.
The result is that other people are often left struggling for room to open their car doors, and it makes their vehicles more vulnerable to knocks and scratches.
The solution to this problem is to mark public car parks out with two sizes of bay and impose differential charges, with penalties for infringement.
In the few cases of free car parks, a charge should be made for occupation of the larger bays.
Similar arrangements could be applied to on-street parking in urban areas, where the charges should be much higher in respect of bays on bus routes.
This would bring the principle of London’s Red Routes and Edinburgh’s Greenways into all urban areas.
Increasing the average speed of buses in urban areas would save enormous sums of money.
The charges should be sufficient to cover the cost of traffic wardens to ensure compliance, both on and off street.
In connection with speeds on the road, it has been proved on motorways that reducing the speed of traffic improves its flow because it reduces the amount of stop-start driving.
In today’s congested urban traffic there is a move to reduce the urban speed limit from 30mph to 20mph.
This improves traffic flow and reduces the number of road traffic incidents, particularly those involving personal injury.
However, it is difficult to achieve compliance in 20mph-limit areas.
But it appears that a shift from all limits ending in 0 to all limits ending in five might be advantageous.
Thus the urban limit would be 25mph, outer urban areas and narrow rural lanes would be 35mph, wider single carriageway rural roads would have a 55mph limit, dual carriageways would be set at 65mph, and motorways would have a 75mph speed limit.
John Wylde is the author of Integrated Transport – a Will-o’- the-wisp? This book is priced at £14.95, post paid and signed by the author. Also Experiments in Public Transport Operation, at £11.95. Order through the author’s website: www.john-wylde.co.uk, or from Grieves on the corner of Church Street in Berwick.