How to stop people buying MASSIVE cars | Top Gear
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Opinion

How to stop people buying MASSIVE cars

TGTV script editor Sam Philip has a plan to help the consumer choose wisely

Published: 03 Apr 2020
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On the one hand, there now seems broad consensus that we, as a species, must lessen our impact upon this planet. Consume a little less, tread a little lighter. On the other hand, the BMW X7.

Yes, BMW’s biggest SUV has arrived in Britain – on, one can only assume, a dangerously overladen boat – as chrome-tipped proof that, while we might be moving in the right direction, downsizing-wise, there’s still quite a bit to be done on the whole ‘conspicuous consumption’ thing.

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Sure, maybe it’s a little unfair to single out the X7, which, by the standards of enormo-4x4s, is actually acceptably frugal. But there’s no denying it’d be rather more frugal if it didn’t boast the rough dimensions, and kerbweight, of a family bungalow. And also, the face.

So if Britons are to be encouraged out of their XXL SUVs and into transportation a little less… vast, what’s to be done? Clearly the UK government’s current strategy of slapping additional taxes on expensive and thirsty cars isn’t doing the job. The sort of buyer prepared to drop 80 grand on a five-metre long, two-and-a-half tonne septum-on-wheels is not, it seems, sufficiently deterred by the prospect of shelling out an extra few hundred quid for the pleasure of actually driving the thing.

What we need is a bit of nudge. It’s been proved in recent years that the most effective way to influence consumer behaviour isn’t SHOUTING or BIG RED SIGNS, but through subtle suggestion and manipulation. If you wish to lure customers into your grocery store, put the fresh bread and fruit right by the entrance, and hide the rat poison and colostomy bags somewhere near the back. Want gents to stop splashing over the floor of public toilet? Don’t employ a bathroom monitor to stand there handing out fines (not least because the paperwork tends to get horribly splattered)... simply etch a picture of a fly in the urinal. Suddenly, every chap’s a bulls-eye hotshot.

Similarly, if you wish to nudge buyers out of their mega-SUVs, forget fiddling about with taxes and CO2 bands. All the government needs to do is this: repaint the lines of our nation’s supermarket parking spaces. In fact, not even all supermarkets. Let’s be honest, we’re talking about the X7 and its ilk. We’re pretty much talking ‘Waitrose’ or ‘Lidl, but ironically’.

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Here’s how it works. At the far end of the car park, miles from the entrance, massively wide spaces. Like, Olympic-swimming-pool width. But, as you near the business end of the car park, the spaces get steadily smaller, until, right by the shop doors, they’re just wide enough to squeeze a VW Up, provided you’re happy to exit through the sunroof. Any drivers parked over the white lines, licence revoked. No, worse... Waitrose loyalty card revoked.

Believe me, I have walked among these people. Given the choice between buying a smaller car or walking an extra 50 metres for their Essential blueberries – trust me – they’ll downsize.

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