5 August 2004

Manufacturers are secretly readying contingency plans to dodge any new taxes on 4x4s, which are under discussion in cities including London and Paris. Honda has admitted it could swiftly launch a two-wheel-drive version of its popular CR-V soft-roader (right), if the Government or local councils introduced swingeing taxes or tolls aimed at SUV drivers.

Authorities in the French capital are planning to outlaw 4x4s from Paris altogether. In London, the Liberal Democrats want to double the £5-a-day congestion charge for SUVs, while mayor Ken Livingstone (above) has described their owners as ‘idiots’.

‘This could prompt us to speedily bring front-wheel-drive CR-Vs to market,’ said a Honda spokesman. ‘Two-wheel-drive CR-Vs are widely sold in the US, where 4x4 style is considered more important than the ability to venture anywhere off-road.’

Other manufacturers are watching developments with interest, and Toyota said it could re-introduce a front-drive RAV4 (above) if necessary. It stopped selling the front-wheel-drive car last year because most buyers wanted the 4x4 model.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘In a democracy there is no place for politicians or the anti-car brigade telling motorists what vehicle they may or may not drive. Perhaps this is more about the politics of envy rather than the politics of democracy.’

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