There was only ever one topic that this weekend’s blog was going to cover. The EU’s decision to impose mandatory and active speed limiters upon the whole continent from 2022, albeit on new cars only (for now), got you talking.
Whatever you think of the idea, or the potential for random, incalculable failures of the technology like those we already see today (speed limit recognition right now is patchy at best, after all), that’s not what we want to talk about right now. There’s another issue centred around ‘sporty’ cars.
Cars with a decent slug of power, say, from 200 ponies upwards, allow more freedom on the open road. They make overtaking easier, they make quick getaways from the traffic lights – useful where lanes merge soon afterwards – safer and they usually pack better brakes, grippier tyres and generally communicate better with drivers.
On the other hand, breaking the speed limit in such cars can be an inevitability. Whether it’s in order to safely get past traffic moving at 10mph under the speed limit, or simply enjoying the car on a quiet country road, these things happen. To arbitrarily say that any and all instances of speeding are inherently unsafe isn’t true, and there’s precisely zero evidence to support any such sweeping statement.
Speed limiters will club powerful cars over the head harder than it will hit ordinary biffabouts. A limiter will act as a leash, holding the car back and canning that sense of freedom that many people buy more powerful cars for. At that point, the question will arise: why bother buying one at all? People will be able to buy a stylish car with a basic engine for a lot less, if they’ll all do the same speeds.
It’s very possible that this will cause a lot of headaches at Porsche, Aston Martin, Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini and anywhere else that power and/or freedom are integral parts of the image. Even the more attainable options like the Golf GTI, the Hyundai i30 N and the BMW M135i may suddenly become about as desirable as foot rot. What would you be paying the extra for, really?
Instead, heads will turn to the classifieds, where dwell cars without the speed nannies. People who want performance will look to these older examples, built before 2022. New sales of interesting models could collapse as demand skyrockets for a selection of limiter-less cars that will only ever get smaller.
Since those models aren’t always all that common anyway, prices would rise. A lot, in some cases. Even left totally standard they’ll be worth much more. Then there’s the restomod scene: as Millennials get older and some of us get rich enough, we’ll look with lust at these interesting and unrestricted cars and will pay whatever it costs to bring one up to 2020s or 2030s spec, in the same way as luxury specialist David Brown Automotive brings the classic Mini into the 2010s.
The restomod scene is likely to grow over the next few decades as people cling to greater freedoms gone by, and with it the available supply of standard, older, interesting cars will dwindle even further. That will drive prices so high that those of us with normal jobs can’t even dream about ownership any more. You only have to look at MkIV Supra, Sierra Cosworth or E30 M3 prices to know how painfully likely this is.
The dawn of the mandatory speed limiter will have two effects: killing interest in powerful new cars and driving up prices of their predecessors. Will we still be able to enjoy them? You’d better plan to buy in the next couple of years, if you’re ever going to.