Is this a decisive move away from car culture, or a Brexit-driven pause?
Lloyd may be right to lament the fact that Britons are now buying SUVs, but there's another—perhaps more encouraging—trend in the British automotive sector:
Britons are also buying fewer cars outright. And diesel cars are being hit the hardest. In fact, according to The Guardian, new car registrations dropped for the 11th straight month in a row, down 2.8% in February compared to a year earlier. True—that's not exactly a staggering figure—but diesel registrations were down a whopping 23.5%!Now, some of that fall in diesel demand is going straight back to gasoline (sorry, petrol!), with sales up 14.4%. But hybrids and plug-in cars are also up a slightly less impressive 7.2%. (The data doesn't appear to differentiate between your regular hybrids and your plug-in vehicles, which sure would be nice to know.)
Overall, this is pretty encouraging news, but let's not get carried away yet. The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders, whose data is being quoted, appears to be laying the blame on a combination of Brexit-driven consumer insecurities, a tightening of credit available for auto loans, and uncertainty over government diesel policy. They are, of course, predicting a resurgence in the not too distant future.
But let me posit a tantalizing possibility: With cities pouring millions into bike infrastructure, converting iconic thoroughfares into pedestrian districts, and promoting plug-in alternatives to private car ownership, the dips in sales we are seeing are exactly what we'd expect in the beginning stages of a shift away from car culture and private car ownership.
Whether it continues, of course, is anybody's guess. But let's not forget that—in many cities at least—e-bikes could eat cars. It's up to all of us to do our part to make sure that they do.