Before the Bureau of Investments (BOI) proposes a ban on 10-year-old cars and begins taking steps toward pushing through with a local version of the US cash-for-clunkers program (LINK), the agency should consider doing a bit more research. It is acknowledged by automotive pundits that the US cash-for-clunkers program wasn’t as effective in spurring automotive sales as much as the Obama administration had hoped. And from a car-guy’s perspective, the only success that the program had was in sending some perfectly good cars to the junkyard. Their engines will never run again, thanks to the concoction of sodium silicate poured into the camshafts while their motors were idling. But the program has its good points.
I am not violently against the proposal for a local cash-for-clunkers program. I just think that banning 10-year-old-cars outright is an extreme measure, especially in a country like ours. Here are my thoughts about the BOI’s proposal and what it means to own and drive an old car in the Philippines:
1. Banning old cars is somewhat elitist. The main reason why there are so many old cars plying our roads is because many of us cannot afford to buy brand-new cars. Just because somebody drives a box-type Lancer doesn’t mean that he is an old-school enthusiast. Will you deny a man the freedom of four-wheeled mobility just because his car isn’t shiny and new? Some folks probably spent years saving for that affordable secondhand car. Will you take it away from them just because of an age ceiling?
2. Not all “old” cars are polluters. My other ride is 15-year-old Mitsubishi Lancer. It is meticulously maintained, delivers a very decent 10km/L, and it passes emissions tests with flying colors. If I am forced to keep this car off the road, the cops will have to pry my beloved’s steering wheel from my cold, dead hands. I am sure other drivers will not give up their cars so easily.
3. Why not ban dilapidated cars instead, regardless of their age? I have seen and ridden in newer taxis that are being held together by duct tape. Under the proposed ban, a new car that is falling apart has more right to be on the road than a fully restored 1965 Ford Mustang. Doesn’t that seem ridiculous?
4. An option to register "historic" cars should be made available. Cars are part of our history. Older cars are like time capsules. It would be wrong to not allow them on the road. If anything, special registration privileges should be given to classic-car owners who keep their cars running like new.
5. Lumping all “old” cars together will definitely piss the enthusiasts off. There are hundreds niches that these old cars can possibly fall into. Carburetor-fed V8s aren’t efficient, but cars with engines like those are probably only used for Sunday morning cruises. Classic Austin Minis are efficient cars, even by today’s standards. Members of the Old Schooler Auto Club who drive immaculate Japanese nostalgics know how to keep their cars in good condition. Again, perhaps banning dilapidated cars is a better idea. Any responsible motorist knows that his car should always be in tip-top shape.
6. Restoring an old car is like recycling old metal. Making a new car requires natural resources, right? And only when a car is driven does it fulfill its reason for being. So, if you bring an old car back to life, this means you aren’t putting a drain on Earth’s resources. Think about it. But just make sure that the carburetor is tuned so you don’t guzzle too much gas.
7. Freedom of choice should never be curtailed. I love newer cars, too. But I should never be forced into buying one or letting my old one go. Ultimately, the car owner will decide when to part with his old ride. And when he does, trade-ins at the dealership do happen. However, the Philippines is not like the US. We don’t change cars as often as people in first-world countries do.
8. Older cars can be fitted with new engines. Resto-mods make older cars up to date. In fact, this is a big business abroad. All of the mechanical underpinning can be brought up to modern standards. How would a resto-modded classic be classified under the BOI’s proposal? Your guess is as good as mine.
9. Banning old cars will put neighborhood talyers and auto supplies out of business. There is a huge economic segment that revolves around replacement parts and the labor force that keeps outdated cars on the road. What will happen to the hardworking people who have a stake in this market if they no longer have cars to work on?
10. Our local auto industry is hurt by gray-market imports, not by the older cars that were sold locally and are now in the secondhand market. This can be a topic for a whole different story. The BOI is lumping everything together. Some clarification is in order. What do you think of the proposal? Feel free to post your comments below.