Market transformation needs a technology neutral approach says SMMT CEO

Aug 9, 2019   People

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) appeals to government to give incentives and clear guidleines to the automotive industry in the UK.

New car registrations fell some 4% last month, the lowest July market since 2012, according to the latest figures released by SMMT this week. This was the fifth consecutive month of decline as ongoing political and economic uncertainty, and confusion over future government policy on different fuel types, continued to knock consumer and business confidence. The good news was a surge in battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations, with demand up almost threefold as new, zero-emission models attracted buyers into showrooms.

These vehicles, however, still represent a fraction of the overall market and one of the main obstacles to growing uptake of electric vehicles further is concern around the availability of charge points. Consumers need to feel that there is a charging infrastructure in place to meet their daily needs – recharging should be as easy as refuelling – so we need a coordinated approach, and significant investment in infrastructure, if we are to deliver zero-emission transport for all.

Moving to net zero is fundamentally about market transformation and all fuel types have a role to play on this journey. For around 120 years, the internal combustion engine has driven this industry, and society at large, and the vast majority of new cars sold are still conventionally fuelled. The transition in markets and manufacturing capabilities needs to be managed carefully and collaboratively with industry in a technology neutral way. Setting the goal is one thing, achieving it depends on consistent and deliverable policies and measures.

While industry can deliver the technology, government must create the right conditions to help. These include long-term incentives and clear messages on future policy towards all fuel types, including on tax and clean air zones. Buyers need to be given the confidence to invest now in a new, cleaner vehicle that best suits their driving needs, regardless of how it’s powered.

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