Motoring in an Age of Austerity

AA tells Labour Party Conference that cars are here to stay

Cars will remain the main form of personal transport for years to come

27 September 2010

Cars will remain the main form of personal transport for years to come despite the increasing cost of oil and environmental concerns, according to the AA President speaking at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester on 27 September.

Edmund King will also highlight to the conference:

  • In UK average new car CO2 emissions fell from 190g/km in 1997 to less than 150 in 2009. Manufacturers are adopting technology such as turbo-charging to maintain same power output from smaller engines. The total CO2 emissions from cars over the last ten years remains stable despite one third more cars on the road.
  • Most people who bought cars under the car scrappage scheme bought smaller, more efficient cars.
  • There have been many other environmental improvements in existing technology – significant reductions in emissions of oxides of nitrogen and particulates from diesel cars.
  • The car remains the most convenient form of transport for the majority of passenger journeys. On average just 15% use public transport for their commute in England (DfT).
  • Hybrids, electric vehicles and hydrogen are all making promising improvements. Government grants for new electric vehicles will help and prices will fall as technology develops.


Commenting, Edmund King, AA President said: "Drivers are often portrayed as Mr Toad but the vast majority of motorists do care about the environment and will consider taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of their cars."

the vast majority of motorists do care about the environment "The motor industry has done much to improve the environmental performance of new cars over the last few years and drivers put 'buying a more fuel efficient car' top of their green priorities."

AA research also shows that drivers are cutting out certain journeys and driving more slowly to reduce fuel consumption.

Public Transport

When it comes to public transport an AA/Populus poll of 17,481 AA members shows some drivers still resist leaving the car behind:

  • 39% of AA members use public transport once or twice a month or more
  • Almost a quarter of respondents use public transport once a month
  • 9% use it once or twice a week
  • 7% use it every day

The survey identified young people between the ages of 18 and 24 as the most prolific users of public transport with some 47% using it at least once a month.

At the other end of the scale the over 65's are the next most prolific users with 46% using public transport once a month or more – for them the free bus pass is probably a significant factor in their choice when compared with the high cost of taking the car.

However a majority (61%) never use public transport or use it just once a year or less frequently than that.

Those aged between 45 and 54 are least likely to use public transport at least once a month (66%) closely followed by the 55 to 64 age group (64%).

In the survey a typical daily public transport user is most likely to be a professional male, aged between 25 and 34, living in the London area.

The person least likely to be using public transport on a daily basis is a manual worker aged between 45 and 54 living in the North-East of England or Northern Ireland.

Overall, four times as many professional people in the survey used public transport on a daily basis compared to manual workers.

Edmund King, AA President, added, "Despite what we hear about car dependence some 40% of motorists also use public transport on a fairly regular basis. I don't think the other 60% of drivers have an ideological opposition to public transport but it is more a question of whether suitable networks exist and if the public transport journey is practical in terms of time, convenience, cost and flexibility."

Reducing environmental impact

More than 90% of AA members would consider taking measures to reduce the overall environmental impact of their cars, according to an AA/Populus poll of 17,481 AA members.

The most popular actions drivers would consider taking personally to reduce the overall environmental impact of cars were:

  • Buying a more fuel efficient car - 62%
  • Eco-driving i.e. sticking to speed limits - 60%
  • Taking advantage of discounts to buy smaller/greener cars - 51%
  • Cutting out short journeys by car - 48%
  • Buying a hybrid/electric or alternative fuel car - 32%
  • Taking up a Government incentive scheme to scrap older cars if available - 28%
  • Giving up car all together - 3%
  • None of these - 7%

Significantly more drivers buying a new car choose fuel economy (28%) rather than carbon dioxide emissions (3%) as a consideration for the model chosen. This suggests that environmental campaigns would be more successful highlighting potential savings in MPG (miles per gallon), rather than CO2.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


24 September 2010