Safety fears as number of old bangers on road rises
Tight budgets mean cars are not being serviced regularly, writes Martin Brennan
WE ARE becoming a nation of old bangers. The average age of the car population has risen to more than nine years and this raises serious questions of road safety as there are concerns that elderly cars are not being serviced regularly because of the economic constraints on family budgets.
In boom times, the average age was much lower. In 2000 it was 5.6 years, in 2006 it was almost six years and has been rising steadily since then. The worsening situation has led to the head of the Opel organisation here calling for an immediate restructuring of the VAT and VRT regulations covering the importation and sale of new cars.
"We need more new cars coming into the market, otherwise we are becoming a nation of old bangers," Dave Sheeran, managing director of Opel Ireland said last week.
"The Government should help with reductions of VAT and VRT if only for safety reasons alone. Apart from that, the Government should realise that more sales would generate more revenue and more employment in a hard-hit industry."
Speaking at the Irish launch of the new Opel city car, the Adam, Dave Sheeran said that a government rethink on the whole issue of heavy taxation of the motor industry would mean a more environmentally friendly fleet of 'green' cars on the road with much lower bills for the importation of fuel.
"It would be a win-win situation – more economical cars, safer cars and more employment, but it looks as if the situation will get worse."
The market for new cars was expected to be 75,000 this year but the forecast now is nearer 65,000, which is leaving many main brand dealers struggling.
"The industry needs over 100,000 new car sales a year and this would remove many of the old and dangerous models. A sales boost is critical for regional dealers as 40 per cent of sales are in the Dublin area where the majority of fleet and rental registration take place," he said.
The RSA has also expressed concern over the ageing car population and the SIMI has said there are reports that even when warning lights come on in cars, cash-strapped motorists are ignoring them. SIMI has also warned of the big increase in the sale of part-worn tyres.
Sheeran suggests that a new scrappage scheme based on a graduated government cash input based on the age of the car would be a big help. The last scheme saw thousands of death-trap cars removed from the roads.
Opel now has a six per cent market share and hopes to grow this to seven per cent by year end as new models enter the showrooms of their 34 dealerships.
The Adam is a funky, three-door compact city car with a 2+2 seating arrangement that will sell at prices starting at €15,000. This will see it slot in between models such as the MINI and Audi A1 at the top end of its segment and the Ford KA and Fiat 500 at the lower end. It is designed so that customers can customise it with up to 60,000 possible exterior and 80,000 interior combinations. The entry level Jam version comes well kitted-out with air conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control, 16" alloys, DAB radio, Hill Start Assist, ESP and fog lights.
The other versions, Glam and Slam, get extra equipment with the top version getting a panoramic sunroof. Power comes from a 1.4 litre engine, putting out 100 bhp with 119 gms of C02/km. Opel says it returns up to 5.1L/100km (44.5 mpg). There is also a more powerful turbo version.
The Adam handles well and gives a sure-footed drive even on rough country roads. Rear space is for minors, or adults on short journeys only. It's a fun car that will attract a lot of attention as glamour versions hit the road from this week onwards.