SALES of “gas-guzzling” 4x4 cars in the United States have slumped by 28 per cent in the past year; in Britain there has also been a small downturn in the purchase of 4x4s in the first half of this year and their critics have been quick to claim that the tide has turned in motorists' preferences. It may be too soon to make that claim: ten years ago 78'000 new 4x4s took to the roads whereas in 2005 the total was more than 187'000. The drop of just 1'500 so far this year can be attributed to a variety of factors, among them the rise in the cost of petrol.
Nonetheless there are several signs that the going is about to be tougher for the 4x4s in ways that their legendary, but underutilised, rough-terrain qualities will be unable to deal with. The increase in road tax in the last Budget was so small as to be meaningless, but Ken Livingstone's planned 25 pounds London congestion charge for vehicles wih high carbon emissions should certainly have an impact. It's a typical double-whammy from London's Mayor, tackling global warming and road congestion at the same time.
It may be true that there is some class prejudice against 4x4s but at the same time opinion against their use in towns and cities is more firmly based on the view that they are really “not fit for purpose”.


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