If you're fortunate enough to be one of the dwindling band who bought a new car after 1st September, you should have a better idea of its real-world fuel consumption and emissions figures than if you bought it earlier.
From that date, new vehicles must comply with the nattily-named World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) instead of the previous misleading Eu-enforced New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). WLTP will almost certainly predict fewer miles per gallon and higher emissions.
Everyone in the trade knew that the NEDC overstated mpg because it was a bench test that did not measure realworld driving. Similarly, 0-60 mph figures are often achieved with the car stripped of seats and other weighty items, and using premium-grade fuel. The latter is applied to the old mpg figures as well – and probably still is. The emissions fraud was less widely known but overall there was shrugging acceptance of industry and EU connivance in deceiving the public.
If, however, you are still awaiting a new car, it may be because it is being re-engineered in order to comply with WLTP. Some models or engine variants have even been temporarily removed from sale – the VW Golf GTI, the Audi SQ5 and the Peugeot 308 GTI 270 – while others, such as the Skoda Superb, are having their power tweaked downwards. Research by Autocar found that Audi, Peugeot, Porsche, Seat, Skoda and VW were all making costly production changes. Mercedes disdained to comment but have warned of falling profits as a result of WLTP.
Not that this alone accounts for the dwindling of new cars sales, particularly of Uk-built cars. Brexit, handy catch-all for doom and gloom merchants, must be partly responsible because it provoked the drop in the pound, rendering many cars more expensive.
Then the government-induced panic about diesel led to a decline of 200,000 in diesel sales in the first half of this year, hitting Jaguar Land Rover particularly because 85 per cent of their UK sales are diesel. The fact that this 6-7 per cent year-on-year overall sales decline has not become a crash is perhaps due to the national addiction to credit, with most people buying on personal contract purchase. The trouble is that, when, after two to three years, they have either to stump up the remaining value of the car or contract to buy another, they're effectively locked into the latter, making us a nation of car-renters. Hire-purchase would be better.
It needn't be thus. A friend recently sold his expensive BMW after finding that a puncture in one £250 run-flat tyre necessitated the replacement of all four because the computer detected that the new tyre had more tread than the others and so flashed it as a fault – now an MOT failure. If you're buying a new car, ask about the cost of tyres. Few do.
He reverted to his standby, a 1998 Skoda Felicia with the old Skoda 1.3 engine and Bosch fuel injection. It lacks aircon and power steering and is noisy on the motorway but it will cruise beyond the legal limit, costs £150 to tax and £140 to insure with Saga, still delivers 40 mpg after 64,000 fault-free miles and is valued by webuyanycar.com at £50. It's carefree motoring. If it breaks, he'll scrap it but meanwhile it brings a smile to his face every time he pulls up alongside a BMW.
£50 Czech: the Skoda Felicia