Not content with being the world's most profitable car-maker, the German company now wants to bolster its customers’ bank balances too. It plans to contest the loveable London Mayor’s plan to increase the congestion charge to £25 for the highest-polluting cars – which of course would include Porsche’s own gas-guzzling beauties. It’s apparently intending to write to Ken this week – and if he fails to roll over in the next fortnight, they’re going to see him in court.
Porsche GB boss Andy Goss said that the increase, which is due to kick in this October, is ‘quite simply unjust… a disproportionate tax, which it is clear will have a very limited effect on CO2 emissions.’ He also suggested that it would damage London’s reputation as a place to do business, while making successful people think twice about coming to work there. Although of course, he would say that.
The Mayor reckons that the higher charge will apply to almost a fifth of the cars currently driven in the C-Charge zone. According to his no doubt highly-scientific estimates, the hike will mean 20,000 fewer vehicles drive into Central London – while the extra revenue from those that do (estimated at about £30m) will pay for a major new cycling initiative. But again, he would say that. And it's probably also true that the upper band will be more likely to pay up, offsetting the revenue Ken is failing to collect from the charge-dodgers and exempt vehicles.
Of course, Porsche’s stance hasn’t exactly gone down well with environmental groups, who have been quick to point out that its booming bottom line relies entirely on the continuing sale of not-very-environmentally-friendly gas-guzzlers.
As the AA point out, it’s true that the congestion charge suddenly appears to have transformed into an emissions charge. But at the same time, we find it hard to believe that the plight of Porsche owners is going to attract widespread sympathy. Are Porsche owners really likely to be so short of cash that the odd £25 is going to break the bank?
On the other hand, there are likely to be other more deserving cases. The Chelsea tractor gets a bad press, but there will be plenty of families with people carriers who live in the C-Charge zone and will now see their driving costs triple – and that’s in addition to the higher taxes they pay for living there in their first place.
Congestion charging is a scheme with noble intentions – but the suspicion is growing that it's turning into a money-making exercise...