2003 Volkswagen Golf TDI diesel

Opinion: push EVs with scrappage – but don’t forget the dirty diesels

Renault Zoe plug-in electric car

The German government has introduced a sales incentive for new electric cars – and the German car industry is incensed.

Up to €9,000 is on offer to electric car buyers, which finally gives EVs price parity with conventional cars. However, there are no incentives for regular cars – and estimates suggest there is €15bn’s worth of them unsold in the German dealer network.

It’s these cars that German car firms want help with shifting.

The intentions of the EV-only incentives are noble. Of course we should help drive people into electric cars. Zero-emissions vehicles are the future.

But not everyone is ready for them or, crucially, can afford them. So how can we help such people do their bit to making the air cleaner?

By not just focusing on getting pure electric onto the road, but also getting dirty old ones off it.

Scrappage: the hybrid route

2003 Volkswagen Golf TDI diesel

There’s growing talk in the UK of a scrappage-style incentive. Given the success of the last scheme, which helped sell 400,000 cars, this should be welcomed. But, unlike Germany, it should not just be focused on EVs.

For starters, there won’t be enough of them to go around. Also, because ordinary motorists might not be able to afford them. It risks giving a saving to those rich enough to buy them, which is hardly egalitarian.

My suggestion is this: incentivise sales of all electrified cars (that’s EV, plug-in hybrid, pure hybrid and mild hybrid), provided they chop in a dirty diesel (or older petrol) for scrappage.

Everything would be included, from the latest mild hybrid Ford Fiestas, to the new Honda Jazz Hybrid, to the plug-in Skoda Superb iV and even the new all-electric Renault Zoe.

All, to a greater or lesser extent, can operate at least some of the time in zero-emissions engine-off mode, so will immediately have an extremely positive effect on emissions and air quality (particularly compared to the car they’d be taking off the road).

Learn from ULEZ

London Ultra Low Emission Zone roadsign

The template is already there. Look at the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). Who has to pay? Petrol cars that don’t meet Euro 4 emissions (2005 and older)… and diesels that don’t meet Euro 6 (2016 and older).

Even without dieselgate, many of us will be aware that as older diesels get older still, their turbocharged motors emit more and more noxiousness – both visible black smoke, and the more dangerous stuff you can’t see.

In an ideal world, owners would service their cars and keep them in tip-top condition, so this wouldn’t happen. But we’re human, and are you really going to put in your £1,000 Volkswagen Golf TDI for a gold-standard service just to keep the emissions down? For a third of the price of the car itself? Of course not.

Let’s get people out of them. Let’s get them off the road. Let’s clean up local air by incentivising someone out of a grubby diesel and into a modern hybrid.

Electrified cars are the stepping stone into pure, 100% zero emissions electric vehicles. Let’s use a 2020 scrappage scheme to start that journey.

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Opinion: The rise and fall of Mondeo Man

The rise and fall of the Mondeo Man

Today, if you said the car the latest BMW 3 Series had to beat was the Ford Mondeo, we’d laugh you back to 1998.

Such was the popularity of Ford’s resident repmobile back then, ‘Mondeo Man’ became shorthand for middle-management and middle-of-the-road. Meanwhile, the car proliferated on company car fleets and the driveways of aspirational workers country-wide.

Twenty years ago, annual Mondeo registrations were upwards of 60,000, but already on the decline. Last year, just 5,000 new Ford Mondeos were sold. So what happened?

Attacked from within

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While it’s generally thought that once-premium cars entering the mainstream did most damage, other theories have been posited.

According to research by Glass’s, the Mondeo could have been cannibalised from within. Sales haven’t come within 15,000 of its 100,000 record year since 1998 – the year the revolutionary Ford Focus went on sale. 

The Focus sold 100,000 in its first year, climbing to over 150,000 at its peak in 2002. Before 2018’s low of 50,000 registrations, it hadn’t dipped much below 80,000 since its debut. Mondeo Man, seemingly, looked to downsize.

The rise of the crossoverThe rise and fall of the Mondeo Man

What also cannot be ignored when charting the demise of the Mondeo, and indeed the fall in popularity of the Focus, is the rise of the crossover. The year 2006 saw the introduction of the revolutionary Nissan Qashqai.

Both for the Mondeo and the Focus, 2007 subsequently saw a downturn in sales, in spite of Ford’s introduction of the fresh ‘Kinetic Design’ third-generation Mondeo. Not even putting Bond behind the wheel could save it from the rise of the high-risers. 

The Qashqai sold like hotcakes, offering the high driving position and bulky presence of an SUV for family hatchback prices. The subsequent market saturation all but smothered the Mondeo and its D-segment kin.

The rise and fall of the Mondeo Man

Ford’s got in on the party, too, launching the Kuga in 2008. Today, it sells the Ecosport, Puma and Kuga SUVs. The traditional Mondeo soldiers on, but has been relegated to third-row in Ford dealers.

“Quite simply, a wider variety of models on offer and a more diverse range of body styles has turned the tide for what was a traditional market of hatchback and saloons in the UK,” says Jonathan Brown, car editor at Glass’s.

Honda e

Opinion: Why I’ve bought a new Honda e

Honda e

Eight months ago, almost to the day, I put down an £800 deposit on a Honda e. I admit it was – and still is – a bit of a punt. No one had driven one, few had actually seen one, and the price was supremely vague: maybe in the sub-£30k region.

Yet thanks to some masterful PR, the world’s media had already become terribly excited about Honda’s first electric car. It was small and oh-so-cute. Despite the obvious expense, Honda had instilled the idea that this was the iPhone of electric vehicles, so price wouldn’t be an issue. It had TV CAMERAS FOR DOOR MIRRORS, for heavens sake! Isn’t that what everyone was gagging for?

For me the purchase seemed low-risk. My deposit was fully refundable, but last September that was returned to me after I paid a ‘proper’ deposit with my local dealer, Norton Way Honda. This £500 is more of a commitment, it seems.

Honda e

Only one of the five colours offered, Charge Yellow, doesn’t incur an additional £550 charge, but yellow is way too lurid for my wife, so we’re going for Platinum Pearl White. There wasn’t much more to choose in September, except 17-inch wheels were included with the launch edition spec if we wanted them. I see now that leather and other packs have been added to the list, but we weren’t offered these. Anyway, cloth seats seem more in keeping with the whole electric car ethos.

Will I still be happy with my somewhat impetuous decision? Will the range be enough? Is the car comfortable? And as the first prototypes were shown to the world some two years ago, does the march of progress mean the Honda e has already been overtaken by the competition?

Honda e

The last point is important. I am buying the top Advance model largely because I’d have to wait longer for the standard car, which seems better value at £26,160. For the price of the Honda e Advance, I could instead buy a Volkswagen ID.3, which looks nice, is roomier and goes further. And that’s just one of many electric cars to come.

But I have bought into whole idea of owning a Honda-e, and I am not having second thoughts. Especially not now I’ve read Richard’s generally very enthusiastic review. He concludes by saying ‘It’s an innovative and authentically unique electric car that, yes, only Honda could make. And, to its core audience and far-sighted early adopters, all the better for it.’

I’ve certainly been an early adopter this time. But I have a feeling I won’t regret that decision when my Honda e arrives this summer. I can’t wait.

2021 Jaguar F-Type

Blue Monday 2020: why car buyers have got the blues

Automobili Pininfarina Battista

Today, Blue Monday (20 January), is said to be the day of the year that we’re at our most glum. But does blue have to be tarnished with feelings of sadness? We reckon it’s one of the nicest colours for a car –and it’s experiencing something of a renaissance among buyers.

There’s evidence that 2020 will be the year for blue cars, too. For starters, it was the flavour of the month at the 2019 LA Motor Show, which closed out the last motoring year. From the Mustang Mach-E, to the Jeep Gladiator, it seemed that everything was blue on the show floor in LA.

Outside of sunny California, a number of cars revealed in 2019 wore also blue, including the new comprehensively updated Jaguar F-Type, the Pininfarina Battista electric hypercar, new Renault Clio, and Ferrari F8 Tributo.

Blue’s official seal of approval2021 Jaguar F-Type

Blue is even the critic’s choice for 2020. The Pantone Color Institute has announced that Classic Blue is its colour of the year for 2020.

Classic Blue (19-4052) was commended for its reassuring qualities, being ‘suggestive of a sky at dusk’ and ‘imprinted in our psyches as a restful colour’ bringing ‘a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge’.

The artistic (if not colourful) language doesn’t stop there: “We are living in a time that requires trust and faith,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

“It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Pantone Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on. Imbued with a deep resonance, Classic Blue provides an anchoring foundation. A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky.

“Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking; challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication.”

Quite.

Blue by numbers2020 Renault Clio price and specs

It’s more than 20 years since blue was the best-selling car colour in the UK. It slipped to second in 2000, just as Messrs Ryan, Webbe, Costa and James were about to storm the pop charts, sending teenage girls into a frenzy.

For blue (the colour), it was less a case of All Rise, and more one of Curtain Falls. Other Blue hits are available.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggest that blue held on to second spot until 2005, when it dropped to third until 2010. In 2011 and 2012 it was fifth, but blue was notable for its absence in 2013. It returned to fourth spot in 2014, where it has remained ever since.

Lotus Evora GT in Cyan Blue

In 2018, 381,591 cars were registered in blue, which represents a 16.1 percent market share. It would take a massive shift for blue to break into the top three. The sombre hues of grey, black and white have been the dominant shades for nearly a decade.

Grey was the dominant colour in 2019 overall, but the signs were already there last year that blue was gearing up for a comeback. In third place, with 21 percent popularity, it wouldn’t take much for it to catch up with grey, at 22.1 percent market share. If it jumps 4.9 percent like it did from 2018 to 2019, it’s on to a winner.

In terms of segments, blue was the leader. It lead with a 24.5 percent market share with small cars, and a 28.6 percent market share with medium cars.

LA BluesLexus LC 500 Convertible

Maybe the car manufacturers were trying to tell us something at LA. Our man Richard’s postcards from Los Angeles paint a very blue picture. Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, LA is more like 25 shades of blue.

Leading the charge in LA was Lexus, with its drop-dead gorgeous LC 500 Convertible. It was painted in a glorious shade of Structural Blue, with a blue top thrown in for good measure.

Without going all M&S about this, Structural Blue is no ordinary paint colour. Good luck getting this one colour-matched at your local DIY store.

Lexus LC Convertible

Lexus says it took 15 years to develop the colour, with its team drawing inspiration from the Morpho butterfly. The production process takes eight months, 12 production steps and 20 quality inspections.

You can read more about the paint here – it’s more interesting than it sounds – but one thing’s for sure: LC 500 drivers are going to fear stone chips like an ice cream seller fears the rain. Following a gritter lorry in a Structural Blue Lexus is a definite no-no.

More evidence of a blue renaissance comes from Alfa Romeo, with the 2020 Stelvio and Giulia showcasing a new Anodised Blue hue. It’s always slightly off-putting to see a Giulia Quadrifoglio in anything other than Alfa Red or Competizione Red, but it certainly wears it well.

Visions in Blue

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Still not convinced that blue is the next big thing? The most eye-catching colour available on the Ford Mustang Mach-E is Grabber Blue Metallic, which just happens to be one of three colours available on the limited-run First Edition cars.

Here’s the thing: blue is a very flattering colour – it can work on cars of all shapes and sizes. From slab-sided SUVs to convertibles that look like they’ve been poured from a bottle, blue is light a little black dress: perfect for any occasion.

If car manufacturers are doing their bit to tempt you away from colours more akin to darkness, drizzle and electrical appliances, the least you can do is take the bait. Let’s make blue the number one hue in 2020…

Opinion: The wrong people are buying electric cars

The wrong people are buying electric cars

According to a new report, 87 percent of electric car owners in the UK are men and the overwhelming majority of them are aged 45 to 74.

And that’s a big problem for the electric car industry.

If you’re a middle-aged man and you’re not David Beckham or Paul Rudd, you’re about as relevant as Myspace and as influential as a Corby trouser press salesperson on a nudist beach.

Donning a pair of skinny jeans, shaving your receding hairline and hashtagging the hell out of your Instagram posts just won’t cut it. You’re over the hill and the next stop is retirement.

Of all of which means you’re hardly the hip and happening ambassador the electric car needs. Watching you squint through your reading glasses as you struggle to decipher the instructions for the public charging point isn’t a great advert for the EV.

Anyone below the age of 34 will be returning to the sanctuary of a lengthy PCP deal on an A-Class faster than you can say “optional final balloon payment”.

Camden, locked

Mercedes EQC owner

The same report suggests that fewer than five percent of electric car owners are aged 25 to 34. Predictably, hardly anyone under the age of 24 is driving a zero emission car.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Most young people are either struggling to pay off their student loan or saving hard for a deposit on a new home. Even with the promise of lower running costs, an electric car is an expensive luxury they can do without, especially in the age of Uber.

Electric car brochures, advertisements and promotional videos are filled with images of youngsters who look like they’ve arrived straight outta Camden Market and spend most of the day supping mochachinos in artisan coffee shops.

In adland, electric car owners dress like catwalk models to charge their vehicles in exotic locations and stare longingly into the middle distance as they contemplate their significant role in saving the planet.

Fewer Keiths, more dragons

Smart EQ electric owner

The reality is often a middle-aged man called Keith who arrives at a dimly-lit section of a motorway service station to find the charger is blocked by a sales rep eating a Ginsters in an Insignia.

The problem is that it’s only the likes of Keith who can afford to own an electric car. He has the disposal income, the off-street parking and the office car park to make EV ownership a realistic prospect.

For younger drivers who are struggling to make ends meet, live in a second floor apartment and park in a council car park while at work, an EV is less attractive than a compact crossover on a £200 a month PCP deal.

Some joined-up thinking is required. There’s little point incentivising youngsters via cheap PCP deals if the supply can’t keep up with demand and the infrastructure isn’t in place. But nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd, so seeing fellow young drivers behind the wheel will be more appealing than the sight of Keith and his reading glasses. Sorry, Keith.

Give an electric car to someone like Emilia Clarke to use for a year and punters will be queuing up like White Walkers at The Wall. Present one to Lily James and you’ll have more baby electric car drivers than you can shake a charging cable at.

Until then, the ‘wrong’ people will continue to drive the electric car industry the wrong way.

Opinion: You’re spending too long at the petrol station

parking fines petrol station

You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about a chap getting fined for spending too long at a BP garage.

No, not Alan Partridge. There’s no whiff of Lynx Java about this story.

The fact that a shopper has been fined £100 is crazy, but here’s the thing: if you’re spending half an hour at a petrol station, you’re part of the problem.

Anything longer than 15 minutes at a forecourt is inexcusable. I’ve never timed it, but assuming there’s no queue, the splash and dash should be completed in less than 10 minutes.

Sure, grab a Dairy Milk or a packet of Wine Gums on your way to the till, but taking anything other than the shortest route between the door and the cash deck should be avoided. Pay, get in your car, then go.

How is it even possible to spend 30 minutes at a petrol station?

The guy at the centre of the story spent 47 MINUTES at a site in Croydon. Yep, forty-seven minutes. Most of that time was spent queuing behind SIX vehicles to use the car wash. Seriously, wouldn’t you come back another day?

Another man who received a fine wondered whether an “allowance of 45 minutes would be far more reasonable”, to which I say “NO”. Think about that for a moment, you genuinely see a scenario in which you’d want to spend three-quarters of an hour of your day at a petrol station?

Why? There must be better things you could be doing with your time.

‘Get the hell outta there’

petrol station at night

Almost everything is more expensive at a petrol station, so anything other than a distress purchase should wait for another day. You’re paying for the convenience and the fact that the retailer makes virtually nothing out of the highway robbery you experienced at the pump.

It means that today’s petrol station is less about petrol and more about shopping. Even the petrol element is in doubt, with forecourts adding banks of electric car chargers to prepare for our electrified future.

Quite how these fit into the maximum stay limits is a subject for another day…

I have sympathy for drivers caught unaware by the parking restrictions – I’m not siding with any retailers who have misled motorists. It’s just that I think that spending the equivalent half a football match at a petrol station is time wasted, even if you’re a Man Utd fan.

Casually wandering around a Little Waitrose or M&S Simply Food looking at chilled ready meals, cat food and household cleaning products while your fellow motorists slip into a coma in the queue behind your generic crossover just isn’t cricket.

When you’re back in your car, don’t spend an age checking your smartphone, arranging your shopping or having an in-depth conversation with your passenger. Be like a celebrity and get the hell outta there.

A visit to a petrol station should be like an Olympic event. Time yourself from when you open the filler cap to the moment you’ve fastened your seatbelt and are ready to go. If you beat your personal best, treat yourself to a Dairy Milk Duo the next time you need to fill up.

No parking fines, no waiting, no bother. Better for you, better for the rest of us.

Today’s non-Cybertruck news: Lara Croft, snow sticks and a stuck Skoda

Lara Croft wax model

Where were you when Tesla unveiled the Cybertruck?

It’s not quite the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall or a meal at Pizza Express, but for Tesla fans, it’s another moment in history. A significant date for the memory bank.

Tesla – and more specifically, the Cybertruck – has been trending on Twitter ever since. It’s secured top billing on the BBC homepage, while the Daily Mail has even given it greater prominence than Millie Mackintosh’s ‘bare bump’ and the ‘plunging gown’ of Charli XCX.

When you’re getting more exposure than Charli’s ‘floral tubing around the bosom and asymmetrical hemline’, you know you’ve managed to spin the PR thing to perfection.

Aside from a well-known yeast extract, nothing divides opinion quite like a new Tesla. Everything Elon Musk does appears to usher in an open season for opinions, memes and witty critiques.

This morning, the Tesla Cybertruck was likened to everything from Lara Croft’s ‘enviable assets’ (to use the Mail’s terminology) to a rubber door wedge. Some were witty – a few were even original.

Every day except Wednesday, Motoring Research asks me to write an opinion piece on something topical or newsworthy. I get the day off on Wednesday, presumably because, aside from the bin collection, nothing ever happens on a Wednesday.

As today is Friday, I’m free to write something on the Tesla Cybertruck. But I won’t. Not only has Ethan got there first, but there are literally no opinions left. I’ve shone a torch into the bowels of the opinion-o-generator and there’s nothing there. Zilch. Zero. Nadda.

More news than you can shake a stick at

Toyota Corolla

Instead, allow me to take you on a tour of some of the stories you might have missed. While you were watching the Cybertruck break new ground – and windows – in Los Angeles, here’s what was going on in the real world.

‘Halfords has launched a ONE METRE snow salt stick which quickly removes ice.’ As press release headlines go, this one goes straight to work. Note the emphasis on the size, because in the world of snow salt sticks, size matters.

Forget pointy trucks, what you need is a pointy stick. ‘The monster stick works like shake ‘n’ vac and home-owners and motorists just need to shake their stick and spread the salt over the affected area,’ claims Halfords.

Get out there and shake your stick.

Halfords snow stick

Temperatures aren’t expected to drop below freezing in Keighley over the coming days, but the biggest news in West Yorkshire is the long awaited Keighley News verdict on the new Toyota Corolla.

“Plenty of clever stuff then in arguably the best-looking Corolla so far, that continues to prove that reliable does not have to mean dull,” is the verdict. Rest easy, residents of Keighley.

Meanwhile, shoppers in Milton Keynes are being invited to enter a raffle to win a Volkswagen e-Golf, with all the proceeds going to a local charity.

Dude, where’s my Range Rover?

Literally and metaphorically, MK is a long way from LA, but that’s where we head next for the startling revelation that Hollywood actress Jennifer Garner lost her car.

Garner, who starred in the film Dude, Where’s My Car, was so traumatised by a visit to Build-A-Bear that she spent 25 minutes searching for her Range Rover. Two things: why is this news and how can you lose a Range Rover?

Maybe she needs to order a Ford Mustang Mach-E in Grabber Blue Metallic. Try losing that in a parking lot.

Speaking of parking, the Advertiser & Times reports on a Skoda Karoq driver who, in a blatant attempt to avoid car park charges, headed down to the beach. Either that or it was an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Isle of Wight without paying for a ferry.

Skoda Karoq on the beach

‘Cleans ya window screen’

There’s more. Over in the world of commercial radio, Heart has revealed how a bottle of Dr Beckmann’s carpet stain remover can treat frozen windscreens. “I’m a genius, get ya self one of these bottles, fill it with warm water and ya sorted,” said the ‘inventor’.

“No cold hands scraping anymore and it cleans ya window screen too, the brush bit is ideal.” Still want that Ford Quickclear heated windscreen? “With a salt stick and Dr Beckmann by your side, the winter blues will be a thing of the past,“ said an onlooker. Probably.

Finally, Farmer Tom might not have the social media following of Elon ‘Major Tom’ Musk, but he has come up with a very good way to stem the ‘constant tide of littering’ in the countryside. Printing car registration numbers on takeaway packaging could reduce the amount of litter thrown from car windows.

Discarded McDonald’s wrappers nestled in the roadside verges of Britain is a world away from the glitz, glamour and dry ice of a Tesla launch in Los Angeles, but it’s somehow more authentic and relevant.

More than 800 words later, you’re still here (thank you) and I still don’t have an opinion on the Tesla Cybertruck. I really ought to get my carpet cleaned, mind. Is there a doctor in the house?

Opinion: Is the Volkswagen Golf R the ‘new Cosworth’?

Volkswagen Golf R

Search for ‘Golf R stolen’ on Google News and you’ll be presented with some grim stories. These aren’t exactly tales of the unexpected – the hot Golf has been a target for many years – but it’s the rate at which the cars are being stolen that’s most alarming.

Many are stolen from driveways in the middle of the night, with owners becoming the latest victims of the keyless theft epidemic. Even more chilling is the fact that some thieves are breaking into homes to grab the keys.

What’s the appeal, aside from the fact that the Volkswagen Golf is worryingly simple to steal? Put simply, the Golf R blends in. Plus it’s a very easy car to drive fast, with plenty of power and four-wheel-drive traction.

For armed robberies, ram-raiding and drug trafficking, the Golf R is the perfect vehicle. To passers-by, it looks like an ordinary Golf, but it packs enough punch to outrun the police if the thieves are caught in the act. Stick a pair of fake number plates on a Golf R and the criminals can move about undetected for weeks.

Last night, Harry Metcalfe tweeted a list of stolen vehicles in the Cotswolds area. Of the 32 cars on the list, 11 are Volkswagen Golf R hatchbacks or estates. That’s a third.

Metcalfe asked if the Golf R is “the new Ford Sierra Cosworth when it comes to nickability”, which is a fair question.

Like the Golf R, the ‘Cossie’ was stolen in large numbers and became the ram-raiders vehicle of choice in the 80s and 90s. The Sierra RS Cosworth was still being used as a getaway vehicle as recently as 2003.

There was a time when the RS Cosworth was virtually uninsurable. Park one outside your house and there’d be a good chance it would be gone in the morning. Some owners were followed home, with the thieves returning in the dead of the night once they knew where the car was parked overnight.

Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

It was a similar story for the Escort RS Cosworth. In common with the Sierra, its door locks were as useful as an umbrella in a blizzard, and many were stolen for some Roxette-inspired playtime. Jeremy Clarkson famously owned one and, although this might be an urban myth, I’m pretty sure he was quoted £20,000 to insure it.

What is true is the fact that he opened his front door one morning to find that somebody had half-inched the rear wing. Ford made the ‘Aero Pack‘ a delete option in 1993 – not that many owners chose to order their Cossie without the body furniture.

Few cars can boast a 20-page thread on Pistonheads entitled ‘Stolen Ford Cosworth stories’.

‘Secure your driveway’

Fast forward to 2019 and it’s easy to draw comparisons between the Cossies of the past and the Golf R of the present. Only last month, police in the North West advised Golf owners to review their home security. “Just to reiterate, we have seen a recent pattern of suspicious activity, attempt burglaries and burglaries at addresses with a Volkswagen Golf on the drive,“ the police said in a message.

“If you have a Golf, please review your home security, secure your driveway if possible. Check your CCTV and security lights work.“

Scary times if you’re a Volkswagen Golf R owner. Would you consider selling yours to buy something less likely to be stolen? Let us know in the comments section.

Opinion: Why must we go back for the future?

Morris JE electric van

‘A retro-styled electric masterpiece’, reads one headline for the Morris JE van. ‘Brilliantly retro’, says another. ‘Retro-cute’ and ‘the cutest electric van I’ve ever seen’ concludes this quartet of rather gushing and sickly-sweet intros.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not buying it. Quite literally, given the fact that the JE van is expected to sell for around £60,000 in 2021.

It’s a ‘reimagining of the original [and] iconic’ J-type van, says Morris Commercial, before describing the 1950s classic as ‘unapologetically distinctive’.

What’s the obsession with reimagining stuff from our past? What next, a reimagining of other distinctive elements of 1950s Britain, such as polio, pea-soupers and women tied to the twin-tub washing machine?

Mind you, there’s no knowing what Britain will look like two years from now.

Putting aside the pros and cons of electric vehicles for a moment, shouldn’t the designs be forward-thinking, progressive and challenging? I’m not sure a van that looks like something Mr Tumble might drive is going to do much for the EV market.

Morris JE van

The company claims it will appeal to a wide range of customers, but the list is exhausting, if not exhaustive.

Small boutique businesses, larger corporate fleets, luxury and lifestyle brands, the hospitality industry, the sport and leisure industry, high-end manufacturing, the events industry and green logistics.

And… breathe. Anyone for a game of monkey tennis?

Of those, who is going to want to drop £60k on Mr Tumble’s company wheels? I can’t see an artisan coffee company ditching the H-van for one of these. Is a fleet buyer going to say “no thank you” to the resources and support of Volkswagen, Renault, Nissan and the like?

The figures don’t add up. A range of 200 miles and a one-tonne payload might look acceptable in 2019, but the technology should have moved on by 2021. The LDV EV30 boasts another name from Britain’s ‘glorious past’, 200 miles of range and a one-tonne payload. The price? Rumoured to be in the region of £30,000.

Morris Commercial says it will create “an individuality in a market where dull, generic design is normal”. Which is one way of justifying an exorbitant price tag and a dashboard that looks straight outta LazyTown.

Vans are ‘dull’ and ‘generic’ because that’s what the market wants. These vehicles are built to do a job on time, reliably, efficiently and without fuss. Sure, there’s a place for vans without ‘clean me‘ perma-scrawled into the dirt on the back doors – I know folk who love their vans more than their family car.

It’s just that most vans I see look like they’ve been used as target practice at the local paintballing centre within a few months of hitting the road. How is the JE’s carbon-fibre body going to withstand even the lightest of damage?

I don’t doubt the hard work that’s gone into creating this ‘masterpiece’. But harking back to a bygone era hints at a lack of creativity and an absence of ideas. Besides, I have a feeling the ‘retro-cute’ market will be swallowed up by Volkswagen’s Buzz Cargo thingy.

I could be wrong (and it wouldn’t be the first time). Maybe the commercial sector is waiting for Mr Tumble to roll into LazyTown in a blaze of zero emission glory. Me, I’m just waiting for someone to unearth a barn-find Bedford CF Electric.

Opinion: STOP binning car service histories

STOP binning car service histories

I know how much the original owner of my Citroen AX GT paid for the car when it was new in September 1989. I also know that he paid £92 for black paint.

I know how much a chap paid for my 1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6 in 1997, and that he part-exchanged a 1988 Audi Coupe with 52,000 miles on the clock.

I know that in 2009, a new air conditioning condenser was fitted to my Peugeot 406 Coupe because the old one ‘was not getting cold’.

For me, having a full and detailed service history is almost essential. It’s part of a car’s provenance. A biographical insight into the car’s previous life, presented in chronological order.

A stamped service book isn’t enough. These are mere thumbnails, telling just part of the story. Who’s to say what work was done and to what extent? What parts were used? Was the car given a minor service when a major overhaul was due?

A fully stamped book backed by a wedge of receipts and invoices is the holy grail. Without them, your car’s history is as hollow as a politician’s pre-election speech.

‘Get out of litigation free’

Car dealer with receipt

But there’s a problem. In the age of GDPR – and with dealers in fear of litigation – showrooms are alive with the sound of shredders, busy making service histories a thing of the past.

I’ve heard reports of car dealers trashing service records because they contained the names and addresses of previous owners. This removes a layer of provenance from the car, particularly if it’s a classic, and could reduce its value by thousands of pounds.

Figures vary, but this report suggests a car without service history could be worth up to 40 percent less than an equivalent car with a comprehensive CV. I’d wager that in the world of historic racing cars and multi-million dollar classics, the difference could be night and day.

This isn’t a problem confined to someone like me, who gets joy – yes, joy – from finding an older car with original number plates, dealer stickers, an unused cigarette lighter, and more receipts than a sales rep’s glovebox.

In the case of a car still under warranty, if something goes wrong and the car hasn’t been maintained to the manufacturer’s schedule, the cover could be invalid. A stamp in a service book isn’t going to change that.

You can’t blame the car dealers. With the spectre of GDPR looming large – not to mention the prospect of crippling fines – recycling a tome of printed invoices is a quick ‘get out of litigation free’ card.

That said, there’s a broader concern that some unscrupulous sellers could use GDPR as an excuse to remove all traces of some of a car’s less savoury former life or to fabricate recent work. This problem was present in pre-GDPR days – how many invoices magically found their way into the bin when it was time for the car to be sold?

If in doubt, scrub it out

Man inspecting service history

New research from Cap HPI shows that 75 percent of motorists would be put off buying a car without a full service history, so this concern isn’t the preserve of sad anoraks like me.

Is it too simplistic to suggest that a seller who doesn’t want their name and address passed on to the next owner takes a black pen to the receipt? Maybe a pair of scissors would come in handy, but do ask an adult to help you with these.

Could a concerned car dealer adopt a similar approach? If in doubt, scrub it out. But please, don’t chuck it away.

According to Lawgistics, “It is fine to hand over documents about a car’s history to a new owners. Dealers wanting to follow this approach should add a sentence to reflect this processing usage in their privacy notice”. Please seek legal advice of your own.

Moving forward, could franchised dealers and independent garages produce invoices and receipts that contain no personal details? If they show the car’s make, model, registration plate, VIN number and mileage, that ought to be enough.

Common sense is required, please, before anyone gets too trigger happy with the shredding machine.

In case you’re wondering, Mr [name redacted] paid £7,634.90 for the AX. Money well spent, sir. Money well spent.