Car Culture: Carmageddon

A weekly guide to car culture, the good, the bad and the plug ugly

375

Stephen Norman, UK boss of Vauxhall cars – owned by the French!

When I began this strand of articles published midweek I was asked why automobiles. I answered that they rule the planet, provide millions of jobs, are environmentally poor, often fraudulent in mpg claims, manufacturers lobby governments to adopt deeply retrogressive policies suiting car makers, cause millions of miles of farming land land to be concreted and destroy animal habitat.

Anyhow, readers complained I only write at weekends, so a midweek post was the answer. And here we are, subject matter justified, our UK government dishing out billions to subsidise car makers during the pandemic with massive welfare payments as the same companies ask government to delay the death of polluting engines.

A quick survey of the UK’s automobile magazines notices they are almost as oblivious of the coronavirus crisis as they were of the consequences of bigger vehicles and powerful combustion engines. They manage one or two poky articles on loss of sales. Loss of sales? Over 44% down on last year. The world of cars is is deluded.

Proving car magazines are just advertising mediums for car makers, they are still full of articles on ‘Best Car To Buy in 2020‘, and spurious comparison tests that never take into account how much gas is guzzled by speeding super expensive saloons and sports cars along Welsh mountain roads.

People such as Stephen Norman, CEO of Vauxhall cars, pushing a wonderfully innovative campaign to ‘Buy British’, must be deaf and dumb. His company is owned by the French and has plants in a nation, England, that is happy to have dumped Europe and all it stands for. Vauxhall was one of the slowest to accept the desperate need for something better to propel vehicles than badly serviced diesel and petrol engines. It sells ‘units’ not cars. His latest fad is to encourage online purchase. He says we are all turning to online buying while in lock-down. Very convenient. That means some poor codger has to deliver the car to you.

Unless you are buying new the same vehicle you have already, you know it inside out, only a fool buys online. I’d even hesitate to buy a pre-owned car with a long warranty attached from a reputable franchised dealer. You really have to check the interior of a vehicle to see if it fits all your practical needs; check the quality of materials for durability, haggle the price – few cars selling means dealer will drop price – and you must take a test drive. 

The woes and trials pile up for car manufacturers. VW, and their subsidiary companies, Audi, Skoda and SEAT, got sued successfully in the English High Court for the dieselgate scandal. VW settled with their German clients, over 400,000 months ago but chose to resist the same claim in the UK. The class action lawsuit, which could be the largest consumer action in English legal history, involves almost 90,000 owners of Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW models. They claimed compensation over the installation of illegal ‘defeat devices’ to cheat European emissions standards.

The judge in the case, Mr Justice Waksman, ruled that “the software function in issue in this case is indeed a defeat device” under the classification defined by the European Union. The judge claimed he was “far from alone in this conclusion”, noting various courts and industry bodies that agree with the verdict. He called VW’s defence “highly flawed” and “absurd”, adding: “A software function which enables a vehicle to pass the test because it operates the vehicle in a way which is bound to past the test and in which it does not operate own the road is a fundamental subversion of the test and the objective behind it.”

After the ruling, the head of group litigation at Slater and Gordon, representing around 70,000 of the claimants, said in a statement: “This damning judgement confirms what our clients have known for a long time, but which Volkswagen has refused to accept: namely that Volkswagen fitted defeat devices into millions of vehicles in the UK in order to cheat emissions tests.”

VW continues to assert “British clients did not suffer any loss”. Cheated, yes, pouring noxious gasses into the air, yes, value of our vehicles falling, yes, but no harm is done. VW refuses to pay compensation to UK owners.

[No news if under English law a win darn sarf automatically applies to oop north, even though Tory policies always apply to Scotland as does whipping Scotland out of the EU against its will.]

And so, back to the Norman conquest at Vauxhall. Stephen Norman says of his buy online policy, “Before the epidemic this trend had already arrived in the food and clothing industries. I think it’s coming to the car industry.” For this reason Norman forecasts increasing relevance of his xenophobic ‘Great Brit Plan‘, the recently launched Vauxhall advertising and marketing campaign featuring the insulting post-Brexit slogan “New Rules Britannia”.

Good luck with that, Norry. I like your Buy British lark as much as I do BMW’s Mini sold with standard Union Jack rear lights.

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS

Dodging wildlife

On short journey this morning had a female deer dodging traffic around my car on a semi-rural road. It must have entered from a house garden and was trying to reach a field opposite defeated by walls and fence. I stopped to give it space but it panicked in a desperate search for a safe exit. I see lots of mentions on Twitter and in the press, some with photographs, of wildlife taking over our empty spaces, a herd of goats munching their way through a Welsh village a much retweeted, amusing example. The next benefit I look forward to is a rise in the number of birds caused by people keeping their cat at home in lock-down for company.

Jogging on the highway

People wandering along pavements in pairs or family groups are pushing Lycra joggers onto the road in their hundreds to avoid the possibility of catching the Grim Reaper’s scout off some laggardly elderly citizen walking around the block. On many Edinburgh streets that means joggers on the crest of the road pushed there by parked cars. To their right or left is invariably a large municipal park where they can jog on nice soft grass surfaces instead of knocking hell out of their joints bashing concrete and tarmac, and worse, leaping in front of my car.

Closing parks

While on the subject of parks; I got a terse note from Health Secretary, the forceful Jeane Freeman – an MSP I much admire – for allegedly saying she was about to close parks. In fact neither she nor the trolls that followed in her wake noticed my comment was not in quotation marks. It was a satirical dig translated from what she had not said when questioned on the radio. I regard my aptitude for reading between the lines pretty mature. I am certain that Scotland will close parks and rural walkways if England does. We seem not to be living as if in a new nation at all but rather doing what London decrees assuming one solution fits all nations And indeed, no sooner had I questioned her ‘options open’ diplomacy than in came verifiable examples of parks and walkways quietly locked up to cyclists and pedestrians. The move can’t be healthy.

Happy motoring. (Kinda)

 

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1 Response to Car Culture: Carmageddon

  1. greig12 says:

    I find it a wee bit worrying that the response to exercise has been not to utilise open space but instead to herd people together into built up areas. I’m not an Epidemiologist but this surely increases the risk of transmission. I get that it’s wrong to risk spreading the virus by driving miles for a day out but many of us don’t live in cities and there are walks within easy reach of our homes. Unfortunately, many of the car parks for these have been closed so a walk past Joe Public is required to get to them.

    I walk the dog daily or ‘take my exercise’ as it’s now called, in a local forest and I hardly see a soul. Some of the country folk living around said local forest have taken to putting their own signs up on gates, posts etc, in a bid to keep folk legitimately ‘taking their exercise’ out. The signs range from those chalked on tarmac to the laminated and official looking but fake. I fear that ‘Go Home Protect Our NHS is becoming a euphemism for ‘My acre of ground round my house isn’t enough and I don’t want you scum near it so GTF and take your germs with you’. Some of them I might add were trying to keep folk off public rights of way before the virus so it’s become a nice excuse. One guy not long moved up here has been reported to the police a couple of times.

    Maybe we should put up similar signs for them when they come into the village to use the shops or chemist, but folk who live in proximity to others would never be that petty. Would they?

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