New Zealand’s vehicle fleet has long been considered one of the oldest in the OECD, thanks in part to the amount of low-cost imports that come from Japan.
Now, the age of the fleet is set to become much more of a talking point as the current government pushes to improve local emissions and clean up the national fleet. While its Clean Car Discount and Clean Car Standard help make low-emissions cars cheaper to buy, they don’t directly tackle ridding the country of its cache of older cars.
Scrappage or ‘cash for clunkers’–style schemes have been deployed with mixed effect in a multitude of countries, including the United States and the UK.
The idea is that those with older cars that meet certain criteria are able to voluntarily hand them over on a ‘buy back’ basis, with the amount of money paid for the car often being well over market value. The money given is then slated to be used to purchase a new more efficient, less polluting, safer car, while the traded-in car gets sent to the scrap heap.
At a parliament event held yesterday where ministers met with various members of the motoring industry, Transport Minister Michael Wood supported a push to make the national fleet younger — a move that would reduce emissions and make the average car on the road safer.
The government and the Motor Trade Association (MTA) have been in talks around how a scrappage scheme in New Zealand could look.
Wood noted that the government hopes to “raise safety standards for vehicles entering the fleet”, adding that the current Warrant of Fitness regime is set to be investigated. “We also need to increase understanding of vehicle safety and this includes examining the options to increase the uptake of these technologies into the fleet,” he added.
“This means whatever the new or imported used car people choose to buy, they are all contributing to the task of cleaning up the vehicles coming into New Zealand.”
The idea of a scrappage scheme has the support of the MTA with its president, Dave Harris, confirming that he’s been advocating for scrappage legislation to be introduced for quite some time.
“New Zealand vehicles are currently being scrapped at around 19.7 years of age. But we know that vehicles from age 15 start failing their WOF inspection more than 50 per cent of the time,” Harris said.
“We also know, from a study commissioned by the Ministry [of Transport], that the victims of a fatal crash involving two vehicles are more likely to be in the older vehicle, which averaged around 17 years old. […] That’s why we have been calling for further investigation of a scrappage scheme.”
It’s not the first time that a scrappage scheme has been discussed at a government level. Similar murmurings surfaced in 2019. Attempts were also made in 2007 and 2009 to get a cash for clunkers scheme over the line.