“Too many people made life miserable for car users in 2023”

After 2023 proved to be a tough year for car users, 2024 already looks much brighter

Opinion - traffic

Hallelujah! Even in these first days of 2024, there are signs that we might be in for a brighter, more productive, less cynically greedy year – one with starring roles for individuals and businesses who give a damn. Those that give as well as take.

This will be in stark contrast to 2023, when too many blinkered, bullying, bad boys made life miserable for untold millions of car and public transport users. Take, for example, Labour’s London Mayor, Sadiq Khan. He's been charging motorists £12.50 a day (ULEZ fee) plus up to £17.50 daily (for his 'congestion' charge)" for the ‘crime’ of driving into his Greater London fiefdom, which includes parts of several home counties. It’s heartless enough that he’s resorting to this, but now he’s stooped to an outrageous new low after the brave folk of Ukraine told him they’re desperate for more potentially life-saving 4X4s as tools needed to help defend themselves from the invading Russians. Their pleas to him to donate those off-roaders he took in under his scrappage scheme were cruelly denied by Khan. Speechless? Me too.

Others who should, for different reasons, hold their heads in shame are those UK public transport ‘workers’ who were regularly out on strike – despite some train drivers earning almost £70,000 a year. Self-anointed ‘anti-oil protesters’ who illegally and dangerously blocked the streets were at best naive and misguided, at worse guilty of undiluted anarchy. Let’s formally warn them: use the same tactics again in 2024 and it’s automatic, no ifs or buts, detention plus hefty fines and criminal records.

The most consumer-focused companies of 2024 again look like being Dacia and MG, who seem certain to continue their no-brainer sales pitches of decent cars at affordable prices. Suzuki is another firm for buyers on tight budgets, because it now offers all its new and inexpensive cars with hybrid tech. Some Hyundai dealers are ensuring that the Ioniq 5 is now available with thousands of pounds off. Renault is answering the “small cars are dead” scaremongers by not only opening the order books for the imminent 5, 4 and Twingo, but pricing them right, too. Nissan’s plan to offer its Qashqai EV for the price of the ICE version is spot on. Rival firms have no choice but to follow.

Meanwhile, I’ve already identified two individuals as my heroes (so far) of 2024. Osamu Suzuki (that’s THE Mr Suzuki) celebrates his 94th birthday this month but remains a special advisor to his company. I first met him in the early 1990s and always regarded him as ahead of his time – as he proved by paving the way for hybrids across the board last year, with pure EVs trickling through in time for the proposed ban on new ICE models. Makes sense to me.

Another unlikely champ is Labour’s Andy Burnham, who had the guts and decency to declare a few days ago that he will not be exporting chump Khan’s money-grabbing ULEZ racket to Greater Manchester, where Burnham serves as Mayor. Here’s a credible, respected, former high-ranking Minister who needs to be brought back to Westminster to serve as Motoring and Transport Secretary/Car Tsar in the Labour Government that will almost certainly be elected to office later this year. How about it, Andy?

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section...

Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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