For all the chest-beating and frothy-mouthed bravado, the Government’s latest pronouncements around tightening up its capabilities to fine car emissions transgressors amount to nothing but a load of hot air that achieves little to nothing.
Look beyond the headline about "unlimited fines" - which will no doubt be seized upon by many - and it is hard to discern anything of tangible value that will come from the announcement, beyond some PR points and misplaced assumptions.
So the Government wants powers to take action against any company caught using a cheat device? Sounds great, but what does it mean in reality?
Anyone with a passing interest in the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test (WLTP) and Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test, being phased in from this year, would know that no such reality is likely to ever occur again. It’s too little, too late, to have any meaning.
But let’s say that our homegrown experts did find something amiss. What will they do with these new-found powers? Take action against the offending authority that granted homologation to the offending car in the first place? Such action could only lead to legal wrangling par excellence and an outpouring of bad blood. Some finger pointing, perhaps, to say, ‘This scandal isn’t our fault but theirs!’ How pathetic.
And then there’s the veiled threat against the specialist and modifier markets, both of which have long contributed to a thriving, vibrant and unique car culture in the UK. What gives the Government the right to insinuate wrongdoing on a wholesale scale without providing a shred of evidence to back up its calls? These companies are typically as small in size and short of resources as they are big on ingenuity. Talk about picking on easy targets.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. This latest blast is coming from a Government that last summer plastered a desire to ban all combustion-engined cars from 2040 over the front pages… and then, not even 24 hours later, quietly backtracked to admit that hybrids would be just fine, ignorantly ignoring the fact that all cars would be at least hybridised by that date anyway.
But I am surprised, and disappointed, for the simple reason that our Government is once again beating the car industry up to make itself look bigger, better, more proactive or whatever it thinks it needs to achieve to earn a good headline or two. The same industry that drives billions of pounds of investment into this country, earns billions through taxation on sales and on which industrial strategies are being built, for the good of the UK.
The car industry is not beyond criticism, but nor does it deserve to have cheap shots like this latest one fired at it.