Ministers hell bent on crippling British motor industry
- Punishment of diesel could scupper investment in future vehicles in the UK, insiders warned
- SMMT said the government is overlooking the benefit of diesel for consumers
- It said that many drivers are swapping diesel for petrol rather than going electric
Car bosses have taken a swipe at minsters who appear ‘hell bent’ on destroying Britain’s motor industry with their calls to ban internal combustion engines by 2040 and their demonisation of diesel.
Punitive measures against the latest clean diesel and petrol cars could scupper investment in the next generation of electric and alternative fuel vehicles, they warned.
The broadside came at their annual dinner in London attended by Business Secretary Greg Clark on the day after he announced his industrial strategy to boost British businesses.
British motor industry under threat: Car bosses said the demonisation of diesel could destroy the nation’s automotive sector
The car bosses laid into policies by his Cabinet colleagues that, they argue, are putting prosperity and jobs at risk.
Under fire is Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s pronouncement to ban all petrol and diesel engines by 2040, and Chancellor Philip Hammond’s road tax hike on diesel cars which is exacerbating a slump in their sales.
Motor industry chiefs said politicians needed to inject a ‘dose of reality’ because this was ‘not a policy without consequences’ and ‘has to stop’.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told the minister and 1,100 guests: ‘UK automotive is great at technology. And we are damn good at internal combustion engines in particular – just look at Formula One for proof. Yet we seem to be hell bent on destroying that reputation.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive
‘We tell the world we want to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040. We introduce taxes, charges and budget measures which ignore technological development, which undermine our industrial capability and which demonise one technology, diesel, despite the benefits it delivers consumers.’
But Mr Hawes said: ‘Customers are not moving straight from diesel to electric. They’re moving to petrol or staying put in their older cars.
‘So we’re seeing a falling market, declining revenues, rising costs, rising CO2.‘
He stressed: ‘This is not a policy without consequences. This has to stop. We need a dose of reality. The industry is agile, it can adapt. But it needs certainty, sensible timescales and supportive conditions.’
SMMT president Tony Walker, deputy managing director of Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK and managing director of Toyota Motor Europe London Office added his weight to the demands for ministers to stop.
SMMT president Tony Walker (right) pictured with former secretary of state for transport, Patrick McLoughlin (left), during a visit to the Toyota factory in Burnaston in Derbyshire
Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s pronouncement to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel engines by 2040
Speaking at the dinner he stressed: ‘The internal combustion engine is not dead – it is the path to a cleaner and greener future.
‘Banning diesel and petrol cars might be a sound bite that works but it’s not a policy that works.
‘If you ban them you disrupt the new car market and you hamper investment in the electric, emission-free vehicles of tomorrow. You set the future back.’
Mr Walker added: ‘We have invested billions of pounds in clean, low emission technologies. Leading change by electrifying the market through the introduction of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell cars.’
The SMMT said: ’The automotive sector has been keen to highlight that the latest Euro 6 vehicles bring significant benefits in terms of low emissions and meeting our climate change targets, and these newer, cleaner vehicles should not be unfairly penalised in government plans.’
‘Free and frictionless trade’ needed as part of Brexit
The Government must not undermine the UK car industry by pursuing a hard Brexit without a deal with the EU, said SMMT President Tony Walker.
He said there was no substitute for free and frictionless trade, and called for quicker progress on agreeing a transition period following Brexit.
While Prime Minister Theresa May has embraced the need for a period of transition to avoid a post-Brexit cliff edge he said: ‘we need to see concrete progress – and quickly’.
The transition ‘should be on the current terms and, crucially, not time-limited’ to give industry time to adjust and secure long-term investment decisions, he said.
‘A hard Brexit would undermine all that we have collectively achieved. It is a real threat – a hurdle we cannot ignore.’
He said a lack of progress over Brexit was already having an impact on the automotive sector: ‘We have huge challenges. Consumer confidence has fallen leading to a downturn in sales.
‘Uncertainty about Brexit – and market confusion over diesel – are taking their toll.
‘We ask government to help provide the conditions in which we can compete. Like every other industry, we need certainty now.’
Switching to World Trade Organisation (WTO) would add at least £4.5 billion to the industry’s annual overheads and mean extra costs from customs checks, red tape and fees on goods that currently move friction free across borders.
More than 1,100 trucks cross into the UK daily from the Continent delivering £35million worth of components to UK vehicle and engine plants to build 6,600 cars and 9,800 engines– the bulk of which are then shipped back to EU customers and assembly plants, he said.
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online