Strewth! Has poor old Gordon done something good on the automotive front? Not without help, I suspect.

Still, our non-driving PM’s formerly naïve advocacy of electric cars seems to have turned into something of substance: a willingness to subsidise the purchase of every plug-in hybrid car to the tune of £2000 to £5000 from 2011.

I even find myself disagreeing with the pundit who recently described Mr Brown’s offer to buyers of electric cars as “a pointless soundbite”. The move should speed the forthcoming Vauxhall Ampera into the market like no Vauxhall ever built, and stiffen up its residual values wonderfully. And rapidly build a constituency of car-owners who see electric propulsion as normal. And encourage the likes of Renault-Nissan to help position the UK as Europe’s electric car HQ.

Inevitably, there are problems. While plug-in hybrids like the Vauxhall Ampera are full of promise, let it not be forgotten that they revert to burning fossil fuels (at no better rate than a half-decent turbo diesel) once they’ve exceeded a city-driving range. And Gordon’s move will also, temporarily at least, encourage horrible little nails like the G Wiz (whose sales have lately been in precipitous decline) back onto our roads.

But here’s the biggest problem. When electric cars arrive in numbers, it will be the existing motor industry that brings them. To invest in these products — which will not be profitable initially — it is imperative that car-makers continue making proper money from conventional cars. Thus the most constructive way today’s car buyers can promote change is by buying today’s cars. Gordon’s financial recognition of this fact — a thorny one for the political classes — would really get things going.Technorati Tags: , ,