History will likely remember Alistair Darling for several things, not least his visual similarity to a human badger. But there’s also the worrying possibility that future generations will look back on him as the Chancellor who killed off the affordable performance car.
Because now the dust has settled on yesterday’s budget statement it’s clear that it’s cheap, fast machinery that is set to suffer more than anything else.
Under the new regime, coming in from the 2010-11 financial year, anything that puts out over 225g/km of CO2 is going to be clobbered with a £750 registration tax and then £430 a year in road tax.
Anything that transgresses further – breaching the 255g/km barrier – will get hit for £950 when the plates get screwed on and £455 a year afterwards.
People with the wedge to fork out £50K for a XXL SUV or a CO2-spewing supercar are likely to dig slightly deeper and simply carry on as before. The Chancellor’s forecast revenue from the new measures demonstrates his clear belief that affluent punters’ buying habits aren’t going to change any time soon.
But this could well be the death-knell for less efficient performance machinery. Cars like the VW Golf R32 (255g/km), Subaru Impreza WRX (246g/km) and Mazda 3 MPS (231g/km) are all going to struggle to find buyers – not just when new and showroom-fresh, but more especially a few years down the line.
Presuming that VED continues to rise at the current rate, it’s not inconceivable that buyers in 2015 are going to be expected to fork out £750 or more a year to keep a six grand hot hatch on the road.
The most likely outcome? That manufacturers will withdraw from this whole bit of the market. I reckon that within a couple of years the sub-£20,000, over-225g/km car will simply cease to exist.