December’s motoring news digested

Posted on January 10th, 2014 by Rob Marshall

newsAs 2013 was fading into time, several interesting stories surfaced, as distraction to the yuletide preparations. The main sound-byte that continued to reverberate was the Chancellor announcing the death knell for the paper tax disc, which, allegedly, will cut not only governmental department costs but also administrative overheads for car owners and businesses. The other boon is that we shall be able to pay Vehicle Excise Duty monthly, which will help many owners of larger vehicles, such as SUVs and MPVs, to spread their costs.

Apart from tax disc holder manufacturers, I must be one of the few people, maybe the only person, questioning the wisdom of relying solely on an electronic database for enforcement. Last year, two days after paying the 12-months’ rate at my local post office, I was pulled over by a police vehicle, because the officers’ ANPR camera, linked to the DVLA database, perceived that my car was unlicensed. Despite the database not being updated, I was permitted to continue my journey, after the officer spotted the fresh tax disc displayed on my windscreen. From my own experience, the database is not updated reliably and swiftly enough and I hope that measures are taken to reduce the chances of innocent motorists being arrested and having their cars seized, without good reason.

Meanwhile, General Motors (GM) announced that its current Chevrolet range will be withdrawn from not only the UK but also across Europe, by the end of 2015. I was always puzzled why GM decided to re-name its Korean-built range of budget cars, from Daewoo to Chevrolet, nine years ago, when the North American brand is best associated with muscle cars and Daewoo was establishing its own niche pretty successfully, especially with the diminutive Matiz. While the move might have elevated the status of a surprisingly capable, but pretty nondescript, range of cars (or, maybe, it gave GM an excuse to charge a higher price for them), it would have damaged the repute of the Chevrolet brand.

At long last, it seems as though common sense has prevailed, as GM focuses its efforts on both Vauxhall and Opel. Fans of the traditional Chevy will be relieved to hear that the Corvette sports car will still be available. Yet, despite various car manufacturers celebrating significant rises in sales last year, other businesses failed to capitalise on the 11% total rise in new car sales and I think that we could see further exits from the UK market. My money is on Proton (unless its long-awaited promises of new models come to fruition), as well as Perodua…

Meanwhile, Saab, the car manufacturer that we all thought had breathed its last, has been displaying mild twitches of life, as very small scale production of the capable, but elderly, 9-3 saloon restarted at its home in Trollhätten, Sweden. Future plans include the possibility of an electric version, according to the Chinese-Swedish investment group, National Electric Vehicle Sweden, which will have relevance, especially in the smog-filled major cities of China. It will be interesting to see whether, or not, this move is a positive start to the brand returning to some semblance of health. I hope so.