Monday 22 August 2011

I'm Shocked! Shocked!

The Greens' @GarethMP tweets:
Average age of Kiwi cars now 12.8 years. Means our fleet is less safe, less efficient and more polluting than many other countries
I can't help but wonder whether the aging of the NZ car fleet has anything to do with the clean green regulations put in place by Labour that came into force in 2008 mandating that imported used Japanese cars meet more stringent emissions regulations. Some folks then would have substituted into newer, cleaner used imports, but many many others would have substituted into older already-in-NZ used vehicles. Making imported used cars, on average newer than the NZ fleet, more expensive works to increase the average age of the NZ fleet.

But National wouldn't be daft enough to do anything to make this worse, would they? Oops.
From January 1, Japanese imports will have to conform to the Japan 05 emissions test, which is tougher than the Japan 02 standard. This means most cars manufactured before 2005 will be non-compliant. Richard Bateman, of Richard Bateman Motors, said it would be too costly for many to upgrade their older cars to newer, emissions-compliant vehicles in one go. Most of his customers were buying cars from the early 2000s and in the $10,000 price range, but none would be compliant under the new standards. It was good to get the older cars off the road, but it needed to be more affordable for people. A more gradual upgrade to compliant cars would make it easier for drivers, he said. Vehicles he was purchasing were already 10 to 15 per cent more expensive in the lead-up to the change, but he did not know how much prices would increase next year. "Until we start buying things in the new market, then we'll know [how much prices will increase]. As cars start to run out we're going to see those prices increase." Importers, who say the changes will hurt consumers, have published figures from a submission to Transport Minister Steven Joyce appealing for a delay.
It is just a bit odd to apply emission standards to imported vehicles where no such standards are applied to existing domestic vehicles. People will substitute from relatively cleaner used Japanese imports to the relatively dirtier older used cars that are already here. Sure, some will flip to buying newer used vehicles. But if we're effectively banning cars that are newer than the average car already on our roads, it seems pretty unlikely that the regulation will achieve its desired end.

I love how politicians support woolly feel-good policies and subsequently are shocked and outraged when outcomes don't match their good intentions.

If we care about dirty cars on the roads - which we should - then the appropriate policy is emission testing to accompany the warrant of fitness checks already held every six months. The visible smoke check seems more than a bit lax, at least judging by the number of smelly cars I observe driving around town. Applying stricter standards to imports just keeps the old smelly already-here ones on the road longer.


  1. You provide a good summary of the reasons why I keep on driving my mid-1990s Toyota Station Wagon (I didn't know it was older than average): upgrading to a newer car is prohibitively expensive. The government should remember that, when introducing regulations, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

  2. We drive a 2000 Honda Stream (lowish kms) and a '96 Rav-4 (very high kms). Odds of replacing the latter before it falls apart just keep dropping...

  3. Hey Luis, how long would you have to drive your old, polluting car before you generate more excess-CO2 than that released from building a brand new "clean" car?

    Quick gogglestimate would have 30g/km saving in CO2 going from a old to new car. 1 tonne of CO2 are released in the manufacturing process of a new car.

    So you could drive your bad car for another 33,000km, right?

  4. @Kimble And that does not even consider my carbon offsets through work. I am in the interesting position that part of my work involves increasing (through breeding) the basic density of trees that will be planted in thousands of hectares all over NZ.

    On top of that, 3/4 of my commuting is walking, riding a bicycle or using public transportation. It is hard to get any greener!