December 6, 2007 / 5:17 PM / in 10 years

Canada's plan for aging cars a lemon: consultant

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s government must offer more than token incentives if it wants to be serious about getting older, less-efficient cars off the road, one of the country’s top industry consultants said on Thursday.

But Dennis DesRosiers, head of DesRosiers Automotive, said the Conservative government lacks the fortitude to combat the environmental concerns.

“The only truly effective way in an incentive program is to have a carrot and a stick, and we don’t have politicians with enough guts to actually try to remove vehicles that are older,” DesRosiers told Reuters.

In a speech in Toronto on Wednesday, Environment Minister John Baird said Ottawa was poised to unveil a plan that will offer rewards to drivers that scrap their old vehicles.

“We will have an initiative in the coming weeks on that,” Baird said during a lunchtime address to the Economic Club in Toronto. He gave no specifics.

This followed a federal discussion paper released in the summer that outlined a number of incentives including cash, free transit passes and rebates on new, fuel-efficient vehicles.

“The incentive options offered through this new program will aim to accelerate the removal of older vehicles from the road and to encourage Canadians to consider sustainable transportation alternatives,” the document said.

It also set aside C$6 million ($5.9 million) in this year’s budget to fund a vehicle retirement program.

DesRosiers noted, however, that these small incentives will do little to get the less efficient, more polluting cars, typically more than 10 years old, off the road.

More than 50 percent of the vehicles bought 15 years ago are still on the road today, almost double the survival rate from just seven years ago.

But he said offering a C$1,000 rebate to scrap a 10-year-old car is not very effective, given that the vehicle could fetch C$5,000 on the used car market.

Instead, the only programs that work are ones that “carry a big stick,” like tougher inspection programs for older vehicles.

Other get-tough programs are also possible. An Alberta government agency, for example, is proposing the installation of roadside cameras with smog detectors as a way to detect polluters.

($1=$1.01 Canadian)

Reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Rob Wilson

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