With the average age of South Africa’s vehicles more than 11 years old, more calls were made at the Southern African Transport Conference this week for scrapping allowances for old cars, but the Automobile Association said it was not practical.

With the average age of South Africa’s vehicles more than 11 years old, more calls were made at the Southern African Transport Conference this week for scrapping allowances for old cars, but the Automobile Association said it was not practical.

According to , the average age of vehicles in the US and Europe was between five and six-and-a-half years old, compared with South Africa where the average passenger vehicle is more than 11 years old, the average mini bus more than 12 years old and the average bus more than 14 years.

"The ages of mini buses and buses are cause for concern, considering the high annual kilometres travelled by these types of vehicles as public transport," Vincent Letshwiti, the technical leader and business development manager at Transportek at the CSIR, told the newspaper.

A call was again made for a scrapping allowance for older vehicles, similar to the recapitalisation plan for taxis. Nico Vermeulen, the director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa), backed the idea of a scrapping allowance. "We will have a precedent for this when the taxi recapitalisation is introduced. In principle, we believe that is something that could be extended to other categories of vehicles," he said.

CARtoday.com reported last month that Wesbank chief executive Ronnie Watson was calling for a scrapping allowance. "We must do more than just cry about the deaths on our roads,” said Watson. "Government has led the way in tackling the problem of too many old vehicles on our roads with a scrapping allowance for taxis. Maybe we could look at that for passenger vehicles as well."

But observers commented that motor manufacturers would support any move that was likely to result in increased vehicle sales. A huge portion of South African motorists would not be able to afford a new car even with a scrapping allowance. Automobile Association spokesman Gary Ronald said theoretically it was a good idea, but not practical.

“Our biggest concern is that it would force people to buy new cars when they are not in a position to do so. We have about 6,2 million vehicles on our roads, so who is going to pay the scrapping allowance? It would amount to a lot of money. The cheapest new car is about R60 000, which would work out to repayments of about R1 800 over five years. How many people have that kind of disposable income? We would rather support regular roadworthy tests for vehicles. Motorists can then budget for the tests and maintain their vehicles ahead of the tests,” said Ronald.

Motor industry analyst and Econometrix director Tony Twine told that in the United Kingdom vehicles had to have Ministry of Transport (MoT) tests every two years. "A vehicle with a recent MoT sells at a premium so just testing cars for fitness acts as deterrent to holding on to them for long periods of time," he said.