By Dan Santy 12/07 Updated: 18/07 07:20
A CAR maker in the town is hoping to corner the market in vehicles for 16-year-olds with its rather unusual alternative to the moped.
Aixam Mega, based on the Swift Valley industrial estate, plans on taking full advantage of a change in the law early next year which would allow 16-year-olds to drive its GTO quadricycle.
Fully enclosed with a roof and side panels, and with four wheels and two seats, it is more like a small Smart car than a moped in appearance.
And from January 19 next year, EU law will mean 16-year-olds in the UK who hold the new moped licence will be able to drive it.
With a top speed of just 30mph produced by its 400cc diesel engine, and only one forward gear and a reverse gear, the GTO will be marketed as a safer alternative to the moped for youngsters keen to get around on the roads.
Aixam's technical manager, Gareth Prewett, said: "As a parent of three young children, I have personally dreaded the idea of them wanting a moped at 16 in order to gain the little bit of freedom that the open roads present.
"That is why the opportunity to provide a safe, stable, four wheeled, and most importantly low speed vehicle, they can commute back and forth to college in is, in my mind, a very sensible alternative.
"For young, potentially speed freak boys in their early days of motoring it provides a low speed, graduated learning platform in which to gain confidence and technique, and for young girls it is a safe, dry and secure environment."
The GTO quadricycle costs £12,000 to buy, weighs under 350kg, is fuel efficient and almost totally recyclable, but where it has gained popularity on the continent - 15,000 were sold last year - just 2,000 are owned in the UK.
French-owned firm Aixam, based in Rugby for the last 12 years, aims to change that by marketing it through bike dealerships and displaying it at shows such as the NEC's Motorcycle Live show later this year.
By doing this, Mr Prewett believes the firm can convince both parents and youngsters it presents a better alternative to the popular moped.
"It's a niche market but once people become aware of it, I'm confident it will be popular," said Long Lawford man Mr Prewett.
"We feel this vehicle represents the best possible chance we have as a community to introduce young people to responsible driving habits from an early age.
"Even with its limited top speed, the design is both fresh and desirable so the kids get a fashionable ‘car’ to drive and parents get to have a good night’s sleep."
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