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From the chair: August 2017
publication date: Aug 1, 2017
author/source: Robin Roberts
So, the car as we know it is going to be dead inside a generation by 2040.
Somehow I think not.
The continuing story of the automobile since the 1880s has been driven by evolution and I cannot see this changing despite the Stelvio statements of Governments which are full of twists and turns, look good in the media but are fraught with the dangers of going off road and plunging into obscurity.
The reality is that petrol, diesel, electricity and gas engines have co-existed side by side since the first cars turned wheels, but their relative percentages have widely fluctuated depending on practical and political factors.
Hybrid modern engines have been with us for a couple of decades and they are becoming more refined and plentiful while a few manufacturers have already shown us electrically powered cars which use an internal combustion engine to drive the motors when the traction battery is depleted.
These are surely the way ahead for now until the fuel cell is mass produced for motoring and that faces the same major hurdle as those jockeying in the race for electric cars, we need a nationwide infrastructure of charging or refuelling stations.
While the Government has been shamed into taking action over its failure to cut exhaust pollution in the worst urban areas because it really cannot control vehicle engineering but adopts a heavy handed approach through emissions’ taxes, we also have the more physical issue of congestion on roads.
This is possibly the issue that causes motorists the most concern. After all they cannot do much about exhaust emissions other than buy electric, hybrid or cleanest ICEs, but they can see the congestion infront of them. It’s a very physical phenomenon.
Our urban areas have evolved over centuries but motor vehicles have barely a century behind them and local councils and governments have tended to be reactive rather than proactive in their race to catch up.
Now the Government has signalled its intention to pass the buck to the boroughs and let them decide how they want to tackle congestion, a neat political move which ensures HM Treasury gets VAT and fuel duty from new cars and fuel sales while councils are seen to be the nasty party to the motorist and for a modest outlay in bans they can stop vehicles entering their designated places.
Oh, and if you live, socialise and happen to work in a controlled zone you will have to pay more to park there or add a lot of extra time to your journeys to park-and-ride. This doesn’t strengthen society but breaks down society and families.
Out of town and out of touch businesses proliferated over two decades and I cannot see them rushing back into urban centres which will be left to high priced shopping centres with added on entertainment and food fast chains shackling themselves to customers.
So how will Government recoup what its losing from VAT and fuel duties if the motor car as we know it is going to be banned from 2040? The Government’s answer will perhaps surprise you, or possibly not. Tax more.
It could selectively increase taxes on motor vehicles and introduce nationwide road tolling while councils tolled their zones, use technology to tax the electricity used in vehicle charging including discriminating the power used overnight for home systems, or tighten up emissions tests so your vehicle was failed and you had to buy/ lease/ hire a vehicle when it did not pass the MoT.
Parts are another area where indirect taxation could penalise motorists. We all need replacement components at times and taxing these more than at present is another discouragement to ownership.
If you have to travel at peak times, well there’s another tax source to look at with differential tolling. Squeezing until the pips hurt really is a possibility.
Those who don’t learn from history will continue to make mistakes and perhaps its no-coincidence that about 200 years on we will see a modern equivalent of the Rebecca Riots when the costs of tolling roads ended with mass protests over the hardship it created for working people of the time, around 1840.