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Country backs taxes for off-roaders

Almost two-thirds of the population want special taxes on sports utility vehicles while more than half would ban them from city centres, as rising sales of bulky off-roaders prompt resistance from drivers of smaller cars.

A survey by YouGoc for KPMG found Londoners even more strongly in favour of restrictions.

Ken Livingstone, London mayor, is awaiting results of a study on whether and how limits should be applied to SUV drivers.

The YouGov survey for KPMG found that 80% of people who don’t own a 4X4 wouldn’t seriously consider buying one, while 60% of those questioned favour banning off-roaders from city centres or even imposing special taxes on them.

Now, analysts at KPMG are warning the sector’s future could be at risk unless the industry acts soon to improve its image and public perception.

Mike Steventon, head of automotive at KPMG, says: “No segment of the UK car market polarises opinion like the off-road segment does. The paradox is that while many people aspire to purchase one of these vehicles - as evidenced by a 17% growth rate in unit sales in the first half of 2004 - these vehicles have a very real image problem in the eyes of the majority of the general public.”

“If this is allowed to escalate, it could seriously taint the desirability of these vehicles, both for current owners and potential future buyers. The pressure is on the manufacturers to better communicate the plus points of these vehicles – space, design and safety – to an increasingly sceptical public.”

Main findings of the survey included:

  • When YouGov asked whether such a move would be supported in the UK, 61% of all respondents said they would be supportive; a figure which rose as high as 70% amongst Londoners.

  • 56% of all respondents said they would like to see these vehicles banned from major UK city centres

  • Of the 2,131 people surveyed by YouGov, 94% did not currently own an off-road vehicle and nearly half of them reckoned that the primary reason for buying such a vehicle was simply the looks. A further 10% cited novelty value as the prime factor.

  • Amongst the 136 current owners within the survey base, 19% cited looks or pose value as the key factor behind the purchasing decision. The same number also plumped for their handling in adverse conditions and how the height of these vehicles gives a clearer field of vision.

    Figures from Spyder Redspy automotive consultancy show that the off-road sector grew from 3.8% of new UK car sales in 1997 to 6.17% in 2003; representing 159,032 new vehicles. With 17% growth in the first half of 2004, new sales this year are expected to hit 190,000.

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