Red i Syndrome – the legacy of Scrappage

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Thanks to the government scrappage scheme, the nation's streets are going to be littered with red base-spec Hyundais. Will nobody think of the children?

Update: March 2016. Given the latest news regarding the victims of Scrappage and the petition to save them from the crusher, this old post from April 2010 deserves a new lease of life. Hat tip to @rotation for the inspiration. This all seems a long time ago...

So the UK Scrappage scheme is over, bringing the boom in car sales to a crashing end. The country is now littered with unwanted motors, patiently awaiting their fate en route to the great scrapyard in the sky.

We're all too familiar with the images of old airfields overwhelmed with Scrappage cars, whilst a nosey around the back of many franchised dealers will reveal the sight of 80s and 90s cars that were deemed surplus to requirement by their old owners.

I myself have read with sadness the tales of Jaguar XK8s and XJSs, Ford Pumas, MGBs, Porsche 944s, Mazda MX-5s, BMW 528s, Saab 900 Turbos, Alfa GTVs, etc, that were suddenly less appealing to their owner than a soulless modern hatchback or supermini.

One of the most famous cases was that of the 1950s Triumph Mayflower which was sent spiralling into oblivion. Part of British motoring heritage, quite literally crushed.

In the interests of balance, it would be fair to say that many of the cars I saw languishing around the back of my local dealers were largely anonymous, tired, rusty and unloved mid-90s hatchbacks. Base spec Clios, Fiestas, Polos, Rovers etc. No great loss, but if I'm still blogging 20 years later, they might be appearing in my regular ‘What ever happened to?’ column.

What is sad, is the sight of collectable and interesting cars being sent to the crusher. I've read of a one-owner, low-mileage BMW 3-series, which by all accounts was in great condition. The owner apparently felt that he had no option than to take the £2k from the dealer, but would have much preferred to have kept the car alive.

The thing is, with a little research and a bit of time, he would have probably have made around the same Scrappage value advertising it on some of the specialist forums, leaving him to free to make a better choice of new or nearly new car. Sad for the car. Sad for the owner.

But there's one lasting legacy of the Scrappage scheme that has seemingly gone unnoticed. Like a red plague descending on our streets, around every corner, in every supermarket car park and like a beacon on every commuter run. Like a thief in the night it has appeared from the shadows, silently appearing in our daily lives. Blink and you would have not have noticed it. But it is here now and there's no going back. Our towns and cities have quite literally been painted red.

I speak of the Hyundai i-Series: the i10, the i20 and the i30. But not just any old i-Series – the red i Series. For the best part of the 20th Century, the UK was synonymous with many great red icons. The red post box. The red telephone box. The red Routemaster bus. The red post van. Red Rum. Red Ken... okay, I'm stretching it now, but you get my point.

Now you're going to have to get used to the red i-Series becoming our national icon for the 21st Century. There's no getting rid of them. Unlike the Hyundai Pony of the last century, these things are built to last. Each one comes with a blasted five-year warranty, so even in 2015 it will still be maintained lovingly by a friendly Hyundai dealer.

Of course, by 2015, and based on the company's current growth, Hyundai will be the main party in government, will have bought-out Tesco and will be the fourth judge on Britain's Got Talent. Your children will reading about Thomas the i-Series, Little Red i-Series and In the Red i-Series. And to top it all, Top Gear's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car will have been renamed to Star in the only car available in the UK today.

Need a reminder of what these cars look like? A likely story. But nevertheless, here they are in all their... well, redness:

[caption id="attachment_23331" align="aligncenter" width="1366"]Hyundai i10 Scrappage Simply Red[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_23332" align="aligncenter" width="1366"]Hyundai i20 Scrappage The Hunt for Red October[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_23333" align="aligncenter" width="1366"]Hyundai i30 Scrappage 99 Red Baloons[/caption]

Yes, you remember them now? They're the ones that are permanently etched on to your retina. The last thing you see before you drift off in a restless sleep.

Their domination of the streets isn't at all surprising when you consider the sheer numbers that were sold during Scrappage. According to a recent report in the Daily Telepraph, some 38,870 cars were sold up to the end of February, making Hyundai the biggest beneficiary of the scheme. Full report here.

As the report goes on to say, the price of a basic i10 was just £4,995 during the scheme, or £85 a month on contract hire. While I really don't get the appeal or the logic, I can understand the attraction. Based purely on brass tacks, the idea of ditching a classic car that may cost up to £2,000 to get through the next MOT has obvious benefits. And yes, some very tired and mundane cars are now off our streets. But the whole idea of buying a car in the same way that someone would buy a fridge freezer simply leaves me cold. Freezing cold.

I've often complained that my route into the office each day is devoid of any faintly interesting cars, but this has been accentuated by the arrival of the red horrors. I guess the new owners are happy and indeed, they all look pretty smug with their feeling of getting something on the cheap.

But when I look at them, I can't help but think of them as terminators. Whilst the reality might be that a white base model Clio may have been sacrificed, I can't help but see a BMW M535i or a Porsche 944S. Or Jonny Mathis's old Talbot Matra Rancho. Or maybe even a Renault 12 Gordini.

Rumour has it that when a driver of a red i-Series drives past a shop window, it isn't the reflection of a Hyundai that peers back at them. Oh no. In the reflection they see one of the countless number of interesting and potentially collectable motors that are now left idly awaiting for the hooded claw to grab them by the roof pillars and thrust them into the abyss. The ghost will forever taunt them, much like we'll be forever haunted by the red i-Series. Forever.

And ever.

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