SUVs under fire in Europe

by William Yeatman on July 6, 2004

in Politics

At a time when SUVs are rapidly growing in popularity in Europe and several auto manufacturers, including Volkswagens Audi and General Motors Opel, have plans to launch new models, the vehicles have come under legislative and rhetorical fire in both France and the United Kingdom.

France is imposing a new tax on vehicles that emit the most greenhouse gases ranging from €1600 to €3200. This tax is aimed primarily at SUVs, but includes large passenger cars as well. Smaller vehicles that still emit the gases will be taxed from €400 to €800, while purchasers of “clean” cars will be given a tax break ranging from €200 to €700.

In the United Kingdom, Professor David Begg, chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport, an independent advisory body to the Government, has said that the current average tax on SUVs of 165 ($421) per year is too low. He recommends raising that three- or fourfold to reduce greenhouse emissions by “giving customers a disincentive for buying such cars.” According to the Wall Street Journal (July 7), “The number of SUVs on UK roads is about 200,000, up 40 per cent from five years ago, Begg said. The government’s got to act for what’s right for society generally, rather than a really small percentage of car owners, he said.”

The authorities in the capital cities of both countries reflect their national governments attitudes. The Paris City Council has proposed banning all SUVs from the city in order to reduce congestion (although such an act would likely prove illegal), while recently re-elected Mayor of London has called people who drive SUVs in London “complete idiots.”

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