Fleet News

SUVs are the cars people love to hate

MOTORISTS driving SUVs have received stinging criticism after a survey found that the vast majority of other road users would welcome an extra tax on 4x4 vehicles. More than 60% of people surveyed favoured either banning 4x4s from city centres or imposing a special tax on them.

Put together by pollsters YouGov and audit giant KPMG, the findings will place additional pressure on drivers of the increasingly popular off-roaders.

The figure for those favouring a 4x4-specific tax rose as high as 70% among Londoners. The results suggest that if Ken Livingstone, who famously branded SUV drivers in the city ‘idiots’, decides to impose a charge, he would get widespread support from the public.

Support for his proposals for congestion charging rarely peaked higher than 50% among Londoners in the run-up to its introduction.

Indeed, 80% of the 2,000-plus people polled claimed they would never buy an SUV, suggesting the burgeoning market for these vehicles may hit a plateau, which, combined with any extra taxes – still a long way off – could in turn see residual values hit. CAP experts are already seeing prices for petrol SUVs drop, although diesels are holding firmer. Martin Ward, research manager at CAP, believes that part of the problem could be there are too many different models and the market is becoming saturated.

Mike Steventon, head of Automotive at KPMG, said: ‘No segment of the UK car market polarises opinion like the off-road segment does. The paradox is that while many people aspire to purchase one of these vehicles – as evidenced by a 17% growth rate in unit sales in the first half of 2004 – these vehicles have a very real image problem in the eyes of the majority of the general public.

‘If this is allowed to escalate, it could seriously taint the desirability of these vehicles, both for current owners and potential future buyers.

‘The sector is worth a lot of money to the major players but even the committed purchaser will start to think twice if a public stigma is allowed to develop around these vehicles.’

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