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Why are cars not properly changed to RHD?

Hi! Hope you're well and hope you don't mind having a read of my rant to see what you think.

I'm wondering lately what is it with car manufacturers, in particular European ones, who in recent years have decided to skimp on doing full right-hand-drive conversions on their cars. For example, in the current Skoda Octavia, the bonnet release is on the left, as it was designed to be. The access buttons for the stereo are also to the left for easy access by the driver. If you take a look at the right-hand-drive model though you see the handbrake, bonnet release and stereo controls still placed for the left-hand-drive market. Same applies to the latest Golf; Volkswagen has been doing that with the Golf since the MK3 model.

And marques outside of VAG are also guilty - in particular Renault and Peugeot stand out as prime offenders for this - so much so as not bothering to convert the wipers to the right side.  It looks so lazy - and I presume it's saving a meager sum on each car sold. You'd know this is the case as the premium brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes still go to the trouble of doing the conversions properly - but what's frustrating is that Skoda was doing proper conversions until recently. Their MK2 Octavia, sold until 2013, had it done properly. So it's a shame to see it going in the wrong direction.

Is there any way you could run this by your people in the motoring industry? I love new cars, but I'm sure most people would be willing to pay the extra €100 per car or whatever it is to have it as intended for the market. I'm sure some acknowledgement of it might make them reconsider. The poor attempts at the minute look very, very shoddy and I wish they'd give us the same attention as they do the left-hand-drive world.

Thank you for reading. I know - first world problems right?

Colin Moynihan (Waterford)

Aug 2017 Filed under: miscellaneous

Expert answer

Hi Colin,

Yup, first world problem right enough, and actually not a new phenomenon at all. The old left-hand-drive-right-hand-drive swapover has been done better and worse by various car makers down the years, and it varies hugely from model to model. Anyone who’s driven a Mazda RX-8, and found the handbrake digging into their left thigh, for example, will have no doubts that even the Japanese, in spite of their right-hand-drive home market, often design cars for left-hand drive and then switch things around on the cheap.

Generally speaking, there should be no safety issues from the switch (wipers, as you point out, should really be swapped across and I can’t think of a model in recent years that hasn’t had that) although there was the old issue with the second generation Renault Megane that used a rod to switch the brakes across and which could still be activated by a passenger poking their shoes into the footwell…

As you point out, some buttons, switches, etc are often left the same and it’s all down to the investment needed to swap them around and the likely return on sales from right-hand-drive markets. Car makers do the maths very carefully, and while you’re right that it might only be €100 a car, that’s a multi-million up front investment, and one with no guaranteed return.

Incidentally, if you think it’s bad now, wait until after Brexit — if the UK car market slips, then the business case for right-hand-drive cars will fall further still.

Neil Briscoe - Complete Car Advisor

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