By Cara Sulieman
IT WAS once the butt of a generation of jokes.
But now a Scots council has given the humble Skoda their official seal of approval by unveiling it as the official new car for its Lord Provost.
Aberdeenshire Council announced that the car, once mocked the world over, was the model of choice for Provost Bill Howatson and his fellow council dignitaries because of its green credentials.
With one of the lowest CO2 emission levels in its class and a high fuel economy to boot it was first chosen over a flashy BMW X5 4×4 and other head turning models.
Not only greener than most other civic cars in Scotland, but it costs a modest sum of £17,000.
That makes it much cheaper than the official civic car of choice for many other Scots councils – the Volkswagen Phaeton at an average retail price of £38,000.
But while some may scoff, the Skoda is by no means the strangest council limo on the road.
The Ford Granada featured heavily in classic cop show The Sweeney, but doesn’t always get a good review.
Last year in a radio interview, man of the moment US President Barack Obama branded the vehicle “the worst car Detroit ever built”.
But a spokesman for the Ford Granada Owners Club explained why the car was a good choice for the Provost.
He said: “It’s not only a beautiful car but it’s reliable too. As long as it’s looked after properly then it should keep going for years.
“It’s definitely a stylish way to travel.”
Five councils don’t have a car – meaning that the Provost or council leader has to make their own way to civic events.
In the Highlands, Provost Jimmy Gray may not have a car and driver on call, but the council can provide transport for him by calling the local cab company.
A number of local authorities have plans to follow in Aberdeenshire’s footsteps and invest in greener technology.
But the Lord Provost is yet to convert and enjoys the comfort of a Volkswagen Phaeton.
Conservative MSP for the north east, Alex Johnstone, said that the move by Aberdeenshire Council was a good thing to see during the credit crunch.
He said: “Aberdeenshire Council has set an excellent example in a time where things, economically, are very difficult and the taxpayer is struggling.
“However, it would have been good to see the council buy a car which was made in Britain to support factory jobs during these tough times.”
And the new purchase has gained the approval of the Taxpayers Alliance, who are pleased to hear about sensible spending.
Others may follow suit
Mark Wallace from the group said: “It’s nice to see a council reigning in at least one area of there spending to lessen the load on taxpayers.
“There are a lot of concerns about the amount of money that gets spent on civic cars and cutting back in this way is a welcome gesture of sympathy with the taxpayer.
“Hopefully other councils will follow suit.”
He said: “Aberdeenshire Council get just one cheer for buying a car with somewhat lower emissions, although the car in question is still more polluting than the EU target, and should probably be called the Skoda Superb Greenwash.
“If the Council had bought an electric car with zero emissions, they’d get two cheers.
“If they got on their bikes, walked or took the bus instead, then they’d get the full three cheers.”
Volkswagen think that their Phaeton provides the best combination of lunxury and affordability, and has the technology to deal with the Scottish weather.
A spokesman said: “It’s discreet, extremely good value for money and very efficient.
“And it is also a 4×4, which allows it to deal with all sorts of road conditions and weather whilst keeping style.”
But Skoda said Aberdeenshire had made a convincing choice, adding: “The Greenline is similar to the Superb, but offers improved fuel economy. It also has lower road tax, costing £120 for a year, which is very cheap for such a big car.”