Call for ban on cars that ate Paris

Sydney Morning Herald

Monday 14 June 2004
Author: Joshua Dowling, Motoring Editor

The global boom in four-wheel drives could be headed for a rough patch.
In the United States they are subjected to graffiti attacks, and rising fuel prices are diminishing their appeal. Now authorities in Paris have called for them to be banned from the city's centre, but experts here don't hold much hope that Sydney will follow suit.

"We have no interest in having [4WDs] in the city. They're dangerous and take up too much space," Paris's deputy mayor, Denis Baupin, said. "[4WDs are] made for a family on vacation . . . and usually they have only one person in them. Let's be logical and only allow into the city cars that are adapted to it."

He described 4WDs as a "polluting caricature of a car" unsuited to city life, but later admitted a complete ban may prove difficult to enforce.

"Our idea is to limit the circulation of the most polluting vehicles," he said. "That means [4WDs] and lots of other vehicles that don't meet European pollution standards."

Paris City Council voted last week to urge the socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, to consider a ban on 4WDs, which make up 5 per cent of the French car market, Reuters reported.

Given that 4WDs account for 20 per cent of new car sales in Australia, it would be a brave government to mirror the move locally, said Kim Rennick, of automotive analyst group Autopolis.

"It's a great idea, but I don't think our politicians are as brave as the French," he said. ``I find it hard to imagine an Australian city council imposing such a ban, especially given that the Federal Government continues to impose a lower tariff on 4WDs than cars. Our tax system encourages people to buy them."

Even self-confessed anti-4WD campaigner, the Pedestrian Council of Australia's Harold Scruby, believes the ban would not work in Sydney. "As much as I'd love to see it happen, I don't think it's likely. How do you enforce it?" he said. "How do you decide which ones are allowed and which ones aren't?"

In Australia, despite a predicted backlash, 4WDs are the driving force behind record sales. The market is so strong that local car makers Holden and Ford have developed their own 4WDs to try to cash in on the boom.