Taking a lead from the food-aid group Les Restos du Coeur, which provides meals for those in need, Les Autos du Coeur association repairs unwanted cars and passes them on to needy people, perhaps to give mobility in rural areas or to help travel for a job.
The group will collect a car or motorbike from anywhere in France, repair it and then offer it to those on low incomes for a ‘donation’ of between €1,500-€3,000.
President Jacques Beaugé said: “Repairs are so expensive that sometimes people find it isn’t worthwhile to repair perfectly good cars, so they don’t know what to do with them and they just sit, gathering dust, in a garage or a garden.
“Did you know that if you lined up all the cars which are broken from scrap every year in France, they would stretch from Lille to Marseille? It’s shocking, and many are in perfectly good running order.
“So we collect them, repair them, clean them up, get them through the contrôle technique, and then we pass them on to people who need them in order to find work.”
He set up the association 12 years ago, after a long and varied career in the car industry, working for Renault and Fiat.
“Cars aren’t a luxury. People in the countryside need them to find work. It is a basic necessity for a job, and you need a job to have financial security and self-respect.”
So far, the group has distributed around 10,000 cars.
“The cost is the problem. Repairing cars is expensive – it costs us around €1million a year. We are always scratching around, getting funding from Pôle Emploi, the social services, banks, etc, but our aim is to provide people with reliable cars to get them started in life.”
Requests for cars are madeby contacting the group on its website (lesautosducoeur.fr) and if a person has the money, the process is quite simple. If not, the group helps prepare a file to get other funding. A loan can be obtained from France Microcredit, an association which provides low-cost loans of up to €3,000 to people who normally cannot access credit via mainstream banks.
Anyone wishing to donate a vehicle can do so on the group’s website and businesses can also benefit from a tax deduction.