Wednesday 25 April 2018

Why we need to be on our guard against becoming a dirty-diesel dumping ground for used imports

In focus: Used imports

Figures show we are importing a lot of cars aged five years and older
Figures show we are importing a lot of cars aged five years and older
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

With all the talk about buying a new petrol or diesel car here, there is the distinct possibility we are overlooking a far more potent threat to health and environment in another area.

If official figures are to be believed, we are importing a lot of cars aged five years and older. There is a scarcity of such cars as so few new ones were sold during the latter years of the recession.

The thing is, however, a significantly high proportion of those used imports are diesel. While nearly half (49pc) of cars imported are aged five years or more, the fact is that 79pc of all imports are diesel. That suggests four-in-five cars of five years-plus are diesel too. The figures are courtesy of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI).

I'm not saying by any means that a five/six/seven-year-old diesel is a bad buy and I'm not being anti-imports (though I will inevitably be accused of that).

But I am saying logic suggests that cars of this vintage are, in the main, much more likely to emit higher levels of harmful NOx than a current new one - or even a model from the past couple of years.

The level of emissions from older cars can vary from company to company and owner to owner

It's also true that some marques were further ahead of others in diesel technology and NOx reduction back the years. At the same time, there is no doubt that all automakers have caught up substantially in latter years. They have had to.

It is only reasonable to conclude, therefore, that a new, or two-year-old diesel, for example, would perform a lot better on NOx, and indeed overall, than a six-year-old.

I think that is a fair assumption. And that is not just the case solely due to technological improvements.

There is the fact of motoring life that a percentage of diesels will have 'slipped' on overall emissions, either through wear-and-tear, lack of proper, focused maintenance, or simple neglect.

Against that, and to be fair to all concerned, cars brought in by dealers here or bought from good dealers in the UK are usually in good nick, generally speaking.

Yet regardless of where they have been sourced or how well-minded they may have been, it is hard to argue with the fact they are not nearly as competitive in mopping up the dirtier emissions than their new, or newer, counterparts.

As things stand, we may not need to be overly concerned. We've had the steady flow of UK cars for some years now and import levels have risen steadily.

However, given the bashing diesel is getting in the UK (we think we're bad here), it is only to be assumed that prices over there will fall as the 2040 sword of Damocles dangles over second-hand values.

And don't be comforted by the timeframe to 2040. In reality, people are bringing the future forward, with more likely to get out of diesels pending the ban on sales, if figures from the UK are to be believed.

The natural way of things is that more, older diesels will come on the market at lower prices in the UK, which will make them even more financially attractive for someone looking to buy a five or-six-year-old import on budget.

I'd expect that sort of trend to begin filtering through to the marketplace quicker than we might think.

It doesn't take a genius (thankfully) to extrapolate some portents from current figures.

Assume, based on the SIMI statistics, we can forecast 95,000 used imports this year. Let us also take it that 49pc of all imports are five years or more. That's 47,500.

Of that 47,500, let us assume 79pc are diesel. That's 38,000 diesels of five years or more with greater potential to emit NOx. And if diesels get cheaper to buy, who is to say the numbers/percentage won't increase?

How many people will look a real diesel bargain in the face and not buy because the car might be a bit dirtier?

And that is why I fear we could so easily become a dumping ground for heavier NOx diesels.

Your view? ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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