Goodbye to big engines
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The large engined car looks increasingly to be a dying species, especially in Ireland. Figures compiled by car history experts Cartell.ie show that registrations of cars with 2.0-litre engines have fallen by a whopping 72 per cent between 2007 and 2012. That is in spite of the increasing popularity of such models as the BMW 520d and the Audi A6 2.0 TDI. According to Cartell, values have fallen to the point where someone driving a ten-year-old 2.0-litre car can be paying up to 40 per cent of the car's second hand value in motor tax each year. The equivalent figure for smaller engined cars is as low as eight per cent.
Much of the change is being attributed to the 2008 changeover to a CO2-based taxation system, which favours smaller, more efficient engines. While it's true that cars with 2.0-litre engines are hardly thirsty these days (Opel can offer you a 2.0-litre Insignia with 99g/km of CO2 for instance) the perception is that the larger the engine, the more expensive it is to run, so smaller engined cars get the nod, even at times when they may not actually be any more efficient.
In 2007, more than 21,000 cars with engines of more than 2,000cc were registered in the Irish market. That figure fell to just 4,937 last year. Clearly, this is not just an Irish issue; car makers across the globe are scrambling to keep up with ever tighter emissions and fuel consumption regulations, especially in the EU. In the past half-decade, we have seen Volkswagen introduce its more compact 1.4 TSI turbo petrol engine, which has comparable power to an older 2.0-litre with much lower emissions and consumption. Likewise, Ford has already begun replacing its old petrol 1.6-litre engines with the new 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit, and a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine will soon replace all of the old 2.0-litre units. Diesels too have downsized - Volkswagen long ago replaced its ageing 1.9 TDI engine with a cleaner, more efficient 1.6 while Renault recently introduced a 1.6 dCi diesel that did away with its old 130hp 1.9 unit.
The big issue for Irish car buyers, and especially those stuck in older vehicles, is the ratio between the value of the car and the cost of annual motor tax. Cartell examined two models - a 2.0-litre Ford Mondeo from 1998 and a BMW 530d from 2000. The study concluded that by now, owners of such cars are paying more every year in motor tax than the car is actually worth.
"We are witnessing the end of the large-engine vehicle in Ireland" says Cartell. "This can be attributed to a variety of factors: the introduction of a motor taxation regime which focuses on penalising vehicles which emit more CO2, the waning in popularity of vehicles which are more expensive to run, and changing trends in the market."
While the financial travails of those paying more than their car is worth in motor tax must be the focus here, car makers and importers will doubtless be licking their lips in some anticipation of reaping some benefit for new sales. After all, if your old, big engined car has depreciated to the point where it's worth less than your annual tax bill, surely it makes sense to get rid of it and sign up for a reasonable monthly PCP plan on a car with sub-€200 motor tax?
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