The government is playing a game of snakes and ladders with consumers in the race to meet its 2030 target of zero emissions motoring, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has said.
Chief Mike Hawes said the car industry is on board with the government’s zero emissions motoring target, but the role of the consumer is being forgotten.
Manufacturers are ‘stepping up to the plate’ but customers need to be encouraged to ‘change their behaviour’.
Speaking at today’s SMMT Electrified 2021 conference, Hawes said: ‘Net Zero forms a key plank in the government’s Plan for Growth.
‘Yet for other sectors, the narrative is “working with industry”; for automotive, the policy is just “end the sale”.
‘So, government seems to have the automotive industry in its sights, but it seems to have lost sight of one vital player in this deal. The consumer.
‘The people who will have to buy the products if this ambition is to be met. As manufacturers we are stepping up to the plate.’
Today we organised an electric vehicle parade driving across Westminster bridge & past Houses of Parliament to launch #SMMTElectrified@MINIUK @Honda_UK @UKVolkswagen @NissanUK @JaguarUKPR @forduk @ToyotaUK @LexusUK @MercedesBenzUK @LondonEVCompany @FusoTruck @Dennis_Eagle pic.twitter.com/esm0nSADCO
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Hawes said the plan will only succeed if the customer thinks battery-powered cars are affordable, convenient and the ‘right choice for them’.
‘This means giving people the incentives to buy them and the infrastructure to charge them,’ he explained. ‘Both are currently lacking.
‘Electric vehicles may be cheaper to run but they are more expensive to manufacture and, therefore, to purchase.
‘If we are to ask consumers to change their behaviour, they need to be encouraged to do so.
‘We can appeal to their good nature and their desire to save the planet but that won’t transform a market.
‘The ownership experience must be cheaper, more enjoyable, easy.
‘That is not yet the case. It’s not so much a race to zero as a game of snakes and ladders.’
Snakes and ladders
Hawes explained: ‘Declare a 2030 end of sale date and align the industry – climb the ladder.
‘Cut Plug-in Car and Van Grant – slide down the snake.
‘Increase rapid and ultra-rapid charging on major roads – climb up another ladder.
‘Reduce home charging grants – slide down another snake
‘Secure favourable trade terms in Brexit and announce funding for automotive industrial transformation – climb up that next ladder
‘Abolish Go Ultra Low, ignore road transport decarbonisation and infrastructure needs in your budget? Slither back down again.
‘This sends the wrong message to investors. When other markets are increasing incentives, we are cutting ours.’
The SMMT chief called for the government to be ‘realistic’ about the challenges of switching buyers to electric cars.
Customers need to be persuaded to invest in a vehicle that won’t be filled up in two minutes around the corner but one that could be charged at home.
He quoted nearly half of drivers don’t believe they’ll be ready to drive an electric vehicle by the time the sale of new pure petrol and diesel cars are banned in 2030.
‘Many believe that, because of cost and a lack of infrastructure, they will never drive one,’ he said. ‘We will not meet our goals if we do not change the hearts and minds of consumers.
‘That means giving consumers the incentive to buy electric vehicles. And not just business customers, retail customers.
‘Customers need to be persuaded to invest in a vehicle that won’t be filled up in two minutes around the corner but one that could be charged at home.’
He went on: ‘Over one in three households do not have a driveway or a designated parking space. Most early EV adopters can park and charge off street.
‘But those in flats, terraced houses, shared houses, cannot.
‘In London, with a population of nine and a half million there are only around 7000 public charging points. One for every 1300 people.
‘Scotland, just over 2,000 for a population of five and a half million.
‘Wales, 846 charging points for a population of more than three million.
‘Northern Ireland just 325 for a population of nearly two million.
‘And here is another crucial point. In the UK, one in ten of existing charging points doesn’t work.
‘You might think that OK. I don’t. In the Netherlands fewer than one in a hundred charging points is defective. Imagine buying a car when you knew one in ten of them wouldn’t work.’
Hawes called for the ‘three “I”s’ to come together – industry, incentives, infrastructure.
‘Invest in the industry. Invest in infrastructure. Invest in the consumer,’ he declared. ‘That investment will be repaid.
‘Make no mistake, the race to zero emissions is one the UK automotive industry can win – but not if that race is snakes and ladders.
‘2030 is achievable but only if the conditions are right, the collaboration strong and the consumer confident.’
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