CEO Update

Why investment and consumer confidence are key to decarbonising road transport

20 November 2020 #CEO Update

This week the Prime Minister outlined the government’s new 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, which included bringing forward the end of sale date for new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to 2030, and hybrid vehicles to 2035.

We share the government’s ambition for leadership in decarbonising road transport and are committed to the journey. After all, manufacturers have invested billions to deliver vehicles that are already helping thousands of drivers switch to zero. Fast-tracking the deadline, however, sets a Herculean challenge. Recognition of the importance of hybrid transition technologies, which many drivers across the UK have already embraced and can deliver carbon savings right now, will provide crucial support as both government and the industry face interim – and statutory – climate change targets.

Delivering the goal will, however, need a clear plan and substantial investment. This move will only be a success if consumers can be reassured that they can afford these new technologies, be confident that they will deliver their mobility needs and that recharging is as easy as refuelling is currently. Additional spending on purchase incentives is a start but these must be long term and internationally competitive. We welcome investment in EV manufacturing capability as we want this transition to be ‘made in the UK’. But if we are to remain competitive – as an industry and market – this is just the start of what we need. Above all, we need to see charging – especially public charging – expanded and, for this, we need to look to others to step up and match the industry’s commitment.

We will now work with government on the details of this plan, which must be delivered at pace in order to achieve a rapid transition that benefits all of society and safeguards UK automotive manufacturing and jobs.

Amongst all the debate this week on electrification, we cannot lose focus on trade negotiations with the EU which are now at the endgame. It would be damaging and demoralising if the additional money allocated to incentives were to be effectively nullified by the imposition of tariffs (which average at around £2,800 for an EU built EV sold in the UK), if the UK and the EU were unable to agree an FTA.

To secure a truly sustainable future, we need our government to underpin industry’s investment in electric vehicle technology by pursuing an ambitious trade deal that is free from tariffs, recognises the importance of batteries in future vehicle production and ensures consumers have choice in accessing the latest zero emission models.

These will be just two of the topics on the table at SMMT’s Annual Dinner replacement event, SMMT 2020 Update – Live on Tuesday 24 November at 13:00. I am delighted to announce that Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be joining SMMT’s President, Dr George Gillespie OBE, in reflecting on the sector and its health in this Covid-decimated year as well as setting out the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. We will also be announcing the winners of Autocar’s first Drivers of Change Awards, which seek to promote talent across all age-groups looking to action change in the industry through innovative thinking.

I hope you can join us and to book your place, please click here.

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