Prestige/performance car maker Porsche is to challenge London Mayor Ken Livingstone's punitive £25-a-day "gas guzzler" traffic-charge, to be levied on cars with high CO2 emissions. The car firm will seek a judicial review of the mayor's policy.
"A massive congestion charge increase is quite simply unjust," Porsche's UK boss Andy Goss told the Beeb today.
"Thousands of car owners will be hit by a disproportionate tax which clearly will have a very limited effect on CO2 emissions."
If the company gets a favourable court review, it will then seek an injunction to quash Mr Livingstone's plans.
Under the recently-announced London measures, the former Congestion Charge - though keeping its original name - is to shift emphasis from reducing traffic levels to taxing carbon emissions. A blunt-instrument three tier system is intended, under which cars emitting less than 120 grammes of CO2 per kilometre will be allowed to drive in central London for free as of old (at least until the rules change again). This includes many widely-available smaller makes: Fiat Pandas, Volkswagen Polos, Renault Clios, some Minis etc.
Mainstream cars emitting 120-225 g/km of CO2 will continue to be charged at £8 for a day's access, with a resident's discount worth up to 90 per cent dependent on usage. For those who like their 4x4s, one might note that a Jeep Grand Voyager 2.8-litre turbodiesel just squeaks into this band at the top; so does the Land Rover Freelander 2 with 2.2 litre turbodiesel.
The bit that Porsche are complaining about is the charge on vehicles characterised by the Mayor as "gas guzzlers" and "Chelsea tractors". This means any pre-2001 car or long-cab pickup with an engine bigger than three litres; or any 2001-onward vehicle in these categories emitting more than 225 g/km of CO2. This includes a lot of vehicles not normally seen as evil - various people-carrier and estate models, for instance, often bought by parents with more than two children owing to the increasingly strict seat-safety rules. The charge for these cars is £25, and - perhaps the true kicker - there isn't any resident's discount for this band.
According to the Department for Transport, there are are only two makes of Porsche registered in the UK which come in under 225 g/km: the Boxster 5-speed VarioCam plus and the Cayman 5-speed. It will cost £25 to drive any other post-2001 Porsche into central London. For a resident of the charging zone, keeping a Porsche could cost £9000+ per year in charges.
Presumably a fair number of Porsche's potential UK customers either live in the charging zone or go there frequently, so you can see why Goss is upset. ®