BIRD'S EYE VIEW: Speed, VED and Swedes in 2009
22 January 2009
Guy Bird is our editor-at-large and political columnist
Predicting what will happen next week is tough enough in the current economic climate let alone the whole year, so here's a lighter look at what could happen in 2009.
1. January - Bail-outs, Obama and eco-trucks
General Motors and Chrysler get bailed out to the tune of $4 billion each and new US president Barack Obama considers more greenbacks for later in '09. Meanwhile, the 'Big Three' US carmakers - GM, Chrysler and Ford - announce restructuring plans that include selling their fleets of private jets ("it'll be daily jet rental from now on we promise") and pledge to improve the fuel economy of their biggest pick-up trucks "by up to 2%".
2. February - Admin error blamed on Miss Whiplash attending new EuroNCAP results
An administrative cock-up at EuroNCAP sees 'Miss Whiplash' invited to announce its latest test results. The mistake is put down to the addition of ESP anti-skid and 'whiplash assessment' within the new test scores. The crash safety experts allegedly promise to give the clerical assistant responsible "a good caning" over the incident.
3. March - Darling adds 66 more VED bands to "improve simplicity"
A new 74-band CO2-related VED scheme is announced by Alistair Darling in the Budget promising to "vastly simplify" the tax collection process. Further rises in fuel duty are slated, but nobody believes a word he says about the collective changes being "revenue neutral".
4. April - 'Meddlers' finally reveal van mpg figures
First it was the BVRLA back in December 2008 using data from Germany, now the Vehicle Certification Agency goes and launches a comprehensive list of fuel economy and CO2 ratings for vans on sale in the UK. Most fleet van operators welcome the move (as no doubt do the Government's CO2 tax planners) but a few van maker die-hards still come over all 'Scooby-Doo villain', brandishing the data misleading and the work of "meddlers". They prefer the much better solution of putting an asterisk by the mpg column of their spec sheet diverting the reader to small print at the bottom of the page saying: "It depends". Great.
5. May - 'SUV' officially becomes a swear word
The Oxford Dictionary officially recognises 'SUV driver' as term of abuse, as in "you're such an SUV driver!" Carmakers quickly remove the word 'SUV' from all promotional literature replacing it almost universally with the word 'Crossover'. Advertising Standards pull up Hummer regarding its new 'H2: It's just a crossover, honest' billboard campaign. The pointless SUV brand doesn't fight the case.
6. June - Higher fines for silly number plates introduced
After a lengthy consultation in 2008, the fine for number plates using the wrong kind of font is increased from £30 to £60 under Section 53 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. Parliamentary insider types also say ministers are considering sending the most serious offenders - including those using italics and/or over-elaborate serif-style fonts that give the appearance of being hand-written - straight to jail. Those caught with personalised number plates that are blatantly not funny or clever [that's all of them except mine then? - ed] are also considered for punishment.
7. July - Highways Agency trials 'new cars only' congestion reduction scheme
With no new major roads in any way near getting built, it falls upon the white-coated brainiacs at the Highways Agency to again better utilise what we've got. The latest idea comes with a nod to Chinese traffic experts. The only cars allowed on the road in July will be ones with '08' or '09' plates, and if the system proves successful the HA says it could be rolled out nationwide on alternate months. Fans of scrappage schemes and modern vehicle fleets are delighted.
8. August - Speed trap bus bums cause road rage backlash
Surveillance of buses fitted with the new 'Tailguardian' - a system that flashes up the speed limit on a vehicle's rear end when cars drive too fast or close - has thrown up issues of road safety not originally intended by its makers. Isolated incidents of private car drivers with poor educational attainment ramming the rear ends of such buses in rural areas have been noted. Sales of digital signs that can be retrofitted to the front of offended cars - flashing up messages such as "F*%k off slowcoach" - are also brisk in the affected areas.
9. September - Eco range rash becomes a plague
The last of the major carmakers without official 'eco' ranges within their line-ups finally give in to their green-mad marketeers. New products with tweaked engines and green- or blue-coloured badges hastily added to their boots with double-sided sticky tape include a 'less heavy' Toyota Land Cruiser 'Lite' and the 'less fast, lower emission' 'Maserati Mild' range. Rumours of a defiantly less-efficient Rolls-Royce 'Eco-Schmeeko' model prove unfounded.
10. October - Mr. Hoon leaves Transport post (by bike)
Geoff Hoon ups and leaves his role as Secretary of State for Transport within 12 months as predicted, with only a Tesla test drive and a failed Manchester congestion charge introduction for memories. The official reason given for his leaving is to spend more time cycling with his constituents.
11. November - Pre-Budget Report reveals more tax breaks.
.For eco-focused vehicles no one makes yet as they cost too much, and fuel duty increases on petrol and diesel in the meantime to "encourage fewer essential journeys". Makes perfect sense.
12. December - Swedes buy into Chinese takeaway
Volvo and Saab are bought by Chinese start-up automakers Brilliant Landfill and Brick Wall Dreams respectively. Both Swedish brands are officially said to be "absolutely thrilled" and say things like "it will be business as usual" when it clearly won't.