Thursday, December 6, 2012

Is it any wonder Britain is falling out of love with the car?

THE doctor's been in and given his diagnosis. Britain is Castrol R deficient. As a nation, we are falling out of love with the car.

That's the finding of a new report, which concludes that we - and particularly my own group of petrolheads, the male twentysomethings - are driving in fewer numbers over smaller distances. Perhaps these days we can't be bothered getting in the car and driving to a mate's place, because it's easier to Facebook them instead.

I'd agree with the numbers - since the days when the Spice Girls were still topping the charts and the most sophisticated bit of handheld tech most kids had was a dead Tamagotchi, the number of young blokes in the North West with a driving licence has dropped by 18% - but not the logic. It's not that we don't still love our cars. We just can't afford them any more.

Motoring as a movement, no puns intended, is still being passed down to the next generation, if the number of lads younger than I am at classic car shows is anything to go by. Gigs like the Footman James show at the NEC, these days at least, are just as likely to draw fans of the original Fiesta XR2 as they are the Morris Minor or the Hillman Imp. I still shuddered when I saw an entire stand dedicated to the Vauxhall Nova!

Nope, the problem is the numbers; upwards of £1.30 a litre for petrol, anything in the region of £1,500 for insurance and the sort of obsession with miles per gallon which would have made a Rover Vitesse owner wince. Not that these aren't things we all have to deal with - remember, these days we're all in this together - and they're costs which most car nuts will still put up with, especially if they're clever and buy a pre ‘73 car with no road tax and classic car insurance. But I can see why most of my mates, even the ones vaguely interested in cars, give the idea an apathetic shrug before whipping out their iPhone.

I like the idea of motoring being a scene, a culture that gets passed down from my dad's generation to mine, which is why I love getting in these beautifully crafted machines, meeting up with likeminded folk and going on a drive to enjoy them. I just worry that in thirty years' time, the generation that follows me won't be able to afford it.

So the car, at least as an entity in modern day Britain, is a bit sick. Then again, I'd still take a Vauxhall Nova over public transport.

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