City drivers urged to think twice before buying 'Chelsea tractor' SUVs

7 April 2021, 11:36

Cars including SUVs queue in a long traffic jam on Knightsbridge in London
Cars including SUVs queue in a long traffic jam on Knightsbridge in London. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Drivers in the UK's urban areas are being urged not to buy large, highly polluting SUVs in a new report.

The report by a think tank has found three quarters of SUVs sold in the UK last year were registered to urban addresses.

The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea accounts for one in ten new purchases of large SUVs - earning them the 'Chelsea tractor' tag.

The New Weather Institute think tank has blamed misleading advertising for persuading families that they need bigger vehicles that cause more pollution.

In its analysis of new cars registered in the UK for 2019 the New Weather Institute found:

  • Three quarters of all SUVs sold in the UK to private citizens in 2019-2020 were registered to urban addresses
  • Six of the top ten areas for large new Large SUV sales were affluent London boroughs
  • The top three districts for Large SUVs - Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Westminster - are all Inner London boroughs. On average, one in three new private cars bought in these areas is a Large SUV.
  • These boroughs also top the league for popularity of the most polluting cars by UK sales volume (all of which are SUVs). More than one in five new cars bought in Kensington and Chelsea fall into this category.

The report recommends a ban on SUV advertising.

Steve Gooding, from the RAC Foundation, said: “We should all choose the right vehicle for the right trip to cut the size of our carbon footprint.

“It is right to question if suburban drivers need a car capable of ploughing over rivers, across fields and up steep hills just to pop to the shops,” he added.

Andrew Simms, from the New Weather Institute, said: "Advertising has somehow persuaded urban families that they need the equivalent of a two-tonne truck to go shopping, and that is a problem.

"Our analysis of the latest available UK data on new vehicle registrations reveals remarkable patterns and a bold truth to one particular piece of urban folklore.

"Chelsea, it turns out (more specifically the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) really is the home of the big SUV, topping the national league with over one in three new private car sales there being a large SUV.

"The next three highest areas for sales are also wealthy urban, London boroughs."

The AA's Edmund King said: "Some of the cleanest cars come in the SUV shape but are all electric such as the Jaguar I-Pace, Tesla Model X or Hyundai Kona.”