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THE RANT - Out with the Old?

Nov 01, 2010

by Mike Matthews

A recent magazine advertisement touts Subarus as old reliable automobiles, pointing out that there is a very high proportion of old Subarus still on the road. The photo illustrating this ad shows a dashboard with an odometer reading in the two hundred thousands. So why did we take our good old Subaru out to the wrecking yard at the edge of the city to get squished like that?  When a giant yellow machine squashed our faithful old car flat last fall, its odometer reading was just over two hundred and twenty-five thousand. 

Why did we do it? On the way back to town, sitting in the back of the dealer’s courtesy vehicle, I’m pretty sure I saw at least one Subaru on the road wearing a black armband.  Didn’t I?

Okay, the Subaru was getting old. About fifteen years old.  An old car means greater gas consumption. Substantial carbon emissions. That is where our new, younger car comes in. The Subaru had been a faithful, steady performer, had never needed serious repairs, never been in a real collision.  However, I don’t look around me carefully when I am driving. I bash into pillars in parking garages.  In ten years I had bumped, dinged and scraped the Subaru front, back and midships. 

The salesman intent on selling us our new vehicle acknowledged that we had very little going in trade-in value.  But he had news for us.  We could get maximum value from our old car at just the point where we purchased a new car. We would surrender our Subaru to the B.C. Scrap-It program and receive a generous allowance of money, provided we purchased a newer, younger, cleaner vehicle. Our friendly sales guide was able to show us the numbers. 

Ooh!  That did it.  Let’s sign up right now; let’s just do it.  We did. Faxed away our eager response, got the okay two days later, signed the papers, surrendered our 1994 Subaru to the big yellow crusher, drove home in a 2005 gas miser.

There were some ominous moments.  The auto wrecker was not easy to find, behind the back of the beyond, down a dead-end road, hidden from sight by tall, dark fir trees. Why would that be?  The fellow who took our car, a laconic cowboy type, seemed decent enough. Did he enjoy conducting vehicles to their violent deaths?  Herding the wide-eyed, frightened four-wheeled creatures through the last moments of their lives, bringing them face to face with the giant machine whose name is Nemesis, whose nature is Doom?

The lady doing the paperwork in the office seemed as bemused by this business as we were. The regulation that the cars are to be crushed in their entirety, that nothing, no part of them, is to be removed or salvaged, bothered her.  “We had an old Mercedes in here with lovely leather seats, well cared for.  Seemed awful to crush it, but that’s the rules.”

We like our new car.  Clean, comfortable, modish colour, good sound system. However, watching our granddaughter watch the animated movie Robots recently, we heard one of the evil characters in that film declare that it made more sense to manufacture new machines than to repair the old machines. We found ourselves thinking about the Scrap-It program. We had not thought about the program when we bought into it.

It makes car-buyers like us happy. It makes car manufacturers and dealers happy, by creating turnover, getting older cars off the roads, newer cars off the car lots.  Is this good?  It’s good for business, good for General Bullmoose.  George Monbiot suggested in a Manchester Guardian article last year that “scrappage schemes are nothing but hand-outs for the car firms, resprayed green to fool the incautious buyer.” He points out that “up to a fifth of an automobile’s emissions are produced during its manufacture.”

How does a Scrap-It program look in less prosperous parts of the world, where automobiles are harder to come by and are maintained and fixed with a view to keeping them going indefinitely? How would it look to our parents? Our grandparents?

How will it look to our grandchildren?concreteface.JPG














 Mike Matthews


For more Rants by Mike Matthews go to


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Kim, I love that graphic of the old stone monster! Hope you use it for rants.
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