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Cars lasting dramatically longer, bad news for the environment

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Vehicles are lasting dramatically longer than even a few years ago, with 43 per cent of passenger cars built 15 years ago still on the road, and this is bad news for the environment, industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers reports.

A political focus on making new vehicles cleaner is ``foolish,'' he declares, when the number of ``old smokers'' is the overwhelming factor in total emissions.

DesRosiers, the country's best-known auto industry observer, calculates that as recently as 2000 only 28 per cent of passenger cars purchased 15 years previously were still being operated.

Changes in survival rates ``profoundly affect most elements of the vehicle industry,'' he wrote in a commentary released Wednesday, and these include ``the most important issue facing the auto sector today: climate change.''

Quality improvements allowing longer vehicle use are evident across the board, he said.

Whereas 35.2 per cent of 15-year-old General Motors, Ford and Chrysler vehicles, including trucks, were registered in 2000, that proportion rose to 43.7 per cent in 2006. Among import nameplates, the 15-year survival rate swelled to 53.9 per cent from 30.5 per cent.

DesRosiers credits a ``technological cocktail,'' including electroplate-galvanized sheet metal, tighter manufacturing tolerances, better lubricants and widespread use of electronic fuel injection.

He noted that some vehicles stand the test of time better than others _ 98.7 per cent of Porsches built 11 to 15 years ago are still registered, compared with 48.6 per cent of Chevrolets and 32.8 per cent of Hyundais _ and in general high-priced cars stay in use longer.

The overall longevity trend is ``positive for the aftermarket, negative for the environment, negative for new vehicle manufacturers, negative for the government _ and most immediately, positive for the average Canadian vehicle owner,'' DesRosiers states.

``Older vehicles are the least fuel-efficient and highest-polluting users of the road,'' he points out. ``A current model year vehicle emits 98 per cent less toxins into the air than a vehicle bought 15 years ago.''

``This represents a much bigger challenge for green-concerned legislators than the issues related to getting the original equipment manufacturers to deliver a greener vehicle to the new vehicle buyer,'' he said.

``Last night I attended a dinner where one of our federal politicians stood up and beat up the automotive sector on the environment and proudly pronounced that the feds were going to implement strict vehicle emission standards for new vehicles,'' DesRosiers added.

``I think it rather foolish for any politician to target the already highly fuel-efficient and very environmentally friendly new vehicles. There are currently close to seven million vehicles on the road in Canada that are over 10 years old, or about 40 per cent of all light vehicles registered. But no politician has the backbone to target getting these old smokers off the road.''

And with the strong Canadian dollar provoking an increase in imports from the United States, he warns: ``There are over 240 million used vehicles parked within a few hours of Canada just waiting to come north, and most of them are gas-guzzling smokers.'

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Cars lasting dramatically longer, bad news for the environment
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