Vauxhall in Britain has announced that it is to participate in a GM Europe scheme to encourage owners of old cars to scrap them in exchange for a GBP1,000 credit against the price of new models described as the maker's most fuel-efficient.

GM's Europe-wide environmental initiative is called 'ecoFLEX' and will operate from now until the end of August. The GBP1,000 bonus applies to anyone trading in a car which is then scrapped in exchange for the lowest emission versions of the Corsa, Meriva, Astra and Zafira.

For drivers who do not want their cars scrapped, dealers will still offer a GBP250 trade-in bonus on these models.

Vauxhall said that it believes this campaign could have a dramatic effect on emissions. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures, over 15 million cars currently on UK roads are seven years old or more; nearly nine million of these have passed their ninth birthday and over four million cars are more than 12 years old.

Even if these vehicles are well maintained, many will not have the latest emission control equipment and - contrary to expectations - are actually less fuel efficient too.

For example, the manufacturer points out, a 1995 Vauxhall Astra 1.7 D was capable of an average 44.2mpg, whereas the 1.3 CDTi unit in the current Astra returns 58.9mpg.

"Modern, low-emission vehicles can only help the environment when they also replace the old cars which still blight Britain's roads," says Jonathan Browning, Vauxhall's Chairman and Vice-President GM Europe.

"We know that there are many drivers who would love to see their old car scrapped and replaced by a modern safe, fuel efficient, reliable and 'greener' vehicle, but they think they can't afford it. Vauxhall will now assist them.

"The scrapping incentive is only the first part of our ecoFLEX campaign. We will continue to optimise the internal combustion engine through technologies such as downsizing and turbocharging while perfecting innovations such as the E-Flex hybrid and fuel cells. Ultimately, we aim to remove the car from the environmental equation."

The incentives are available on the most fuel-efficient versions of Vauxhall's best selling small and family cars: the Corsa 1.0-litre petrol and 1.3 CDTi 75; Meriva 1.4-litre petrol and 1.3CDTi; Astra 1.4-litre petrol and 1.3CDTi and Zafira 1.6-litre petrol and 1.9CDTi 120PS.

Cynics, however, may point to the limited time frame for the campaign and conclude that it's a marketing wheeze to push slow-selling models ahead of the UK registration plate change in September.