Banning petrol-only sales could change the face of the classic car market

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It’s rare that a single news item can take days or even weeks before it starts to sink in. The Government’s announcement that it will ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 - 10 years earlier than planned, and that some Hybrids will be allowed until 2035, is one such piece of news.

We knew this was coming – it was inevitable at some stage in the battle to curb carbon emissions – but it still feels strange to contemplate it as reality.

For any old-school auto enthusiasts hoping that the decision could somehow be postponed or diluted, take note that David Attenborough has already been enlisted as the messenger tasked with cultivating support for the ban. And, as we’ve seen countless times, The Attenborough Effect is a potent force that few can ignore.

A mass move towards electric cars cannot happen without huge additional investment, which is why £1.3 billion has been allocated for new car charging infrastructure along with £582 million in grants for buying electric cars. But while the decision is going to fundamentally change the complexion of our transport infrastructure and how people use and relate to automobiles, there’s another key repercussion for car enthusiasts that’s worthy of attention.

Normally, most non-exclusive new vehicles take at least 20 years before they can be considered as classic cars –  and even then they will need to have some sort of unique, desirable or collective quality to attract the interest of collectors. Banning petrol-only vehicles by 2030 is likely to broaden the classic car market as well as significantly shortening ‘time to classic status’.

 

Instant classics in the making

The majority of car manufacturers are already focused on promoting their electric and hybrid offerings. Porsche’s current UK website leads with the strapline, ‘soul, electrified’, in reference to its Taycan electric sportscar. Mercedes-Benz is pushing its electric and plug-in hybrid range and offering free Chargemaster wall boxes to its customers. Jaguar too is majoring on its hybrid SUVs and saloons.

There is only one direction of travel here, and it’s no surprise to see many petrol-only models going into run-off, with final editions or limited runs of special editions being produced to capitalise on demand and create a buzz around these ‘end of an era’ models.

These final editions currently in production are surely destined to become future classics. Remember the air-cooled Porsche 911s that were discontinued in the 1990s? Scarcity and exclusivity are key drivers of investment value, and those Porsches saw a huge surge in popularity after production ceased. Today it’s not unusual to see them sold for upwards of £75,000, with even more paid for the earlier models.

More broadly, as we now have confirmation that petrol- and diesel-only vehicles are going to be phased out in the coming years, this makes it a very interesting time for car investors, as it’s entirely possible that affordable end-of-line models on sale today could be regarded as classics far more quickly than in years gone by.

 

Beating the blandness with an electric classic

Alongside these trends, the market for electric classics has been slowly trundling along over the past few years, with more specialist companies providing electric conversions for classic vehicles of all ages. Whatever your views on the electrification of these petrol-powered legends of yesteryear, there’s no doubt that it can be useful in making otherwise unroadworthy vehicles legal again. For example, Swind E makes an Electric Mini, which is decent representation of what can be achieved in this space.   

Unfortunately, converting a classic is still extremely costly and only likely to appeal to those with very deep pockets, at least until further technology advancements create new and cheaper ways to electrify these vehicles.

However, in the longer-term there could nevertheless be a buoyant future for this market. For all of the debate about range, battery technology, infrastructure shortcomings, and so on, one of the biggest problems for purist enthusiasts like myself is the lack of emphasis on distinctive design within the mainstream electric vehicle market. To put it bluntly, standard models all look rather bland and samey, hence, if going electric becomes a necessity in order to stay on the road, we enthusiasts are likely to opt for electric classics over anything in the showroom.

At ERS we already provide cover for what is currently quite a niche area of the market. But it’s certainly one that we’re expecting to take off over the next decade, unless some of the manufacturers start debuting affordable electric models that are genuinely worth getting excited about!

Furthermore, it’s likely that mainstream online motor insurers will move along the path of least resistance and start majoring in easy-to-insure new hybrids and electrics, rather than modified electric vehicles or converted classics – again creating opportunity for our brokers in the years ahead.


Don’t worry – classics won’t disappear

Even if petrol-only vehicles end up being forced off the roads altogether, we can still expect to see some of our most-loved chassis reconfigured and electrified for these climate conscious times – good news for the long-term health of ERS’s classic car book!   

And while I wouldn’t bank on too many of the current crop of electric and hybrid vehicles becoming future classics in their own right, you never know what the design whizzes in the world’s leading auto manufacturers might have in store for us tomorrow.

 

Looking for a classic car or collection quotation? Contact our expert Enthusiast team classicquotes@ers.com | 0345 600 3890




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