Car Dealer asks what will happen next with the 2035 ban as rows rumble on?

Associate editor James Batchelor looks at the ramifications and harsh realities of the 2030 ban U-turn and the ZEV mandate


Time 7:37 am, October 22, 2023

Politics. It’s a subject I don’t like to talk about, especially on my own social media and in this column, as it’s a private thing. But this month I have to break my charmingly quaint rules because I’ve been mulling over a few things for the past few weeks and I’m a bit cross.

The government has finally done something that many in our industry thought it would, not least by most of the Car Dealer editorial staff, and delayed the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrols and diesels. It’s a ‘proportionate and pragmatic decision’, Rishi tells us. 

The can has been well and truly kicked down the road, let’s face it, but to dampen down the embarrassing racket as the can clatters along, the government has decided to ramp up strict EV sales targets between now and 2035 with its ‘ZEV mandate’. So, the ban won’t come into play until 2035, but that also means it won’t be a switch that suddenly turns off new ICE sales. 

By 2030 – the original date of the ban don’t forget – 80 per cent of all new cars sold in the UK (and 70 per cent of vans) will have to be pure-electric, or ‘zero emission’, before representing 100 per cent of new car sales in 2035 – the year the beaten-up can finally comes to a rest on the Tarmac.

Let’s just dwell on that for a moment. Eighty per cent is practically the market isn’t it, which means that the remaining 20 per cent will likely be super-high-end cars and Britain’s fantastic cottage industry of micromanufacturers. 

And they really will be high-end, because the volume carmakers that make exotic stuff such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz will either be completely electric by 2030 anyway or will deem developing new models powered by petrol for a short five-year period a massive waste of time. 

Effectively, the UK will have a purely EV market in 2030, but not technically because the PM believes the original 2030 deadline would affect hard-working families. It’s a ‘proportionate and pragmatic decision’, don’t forget.

What worries me, though, is how we get to that 80 per cent share in 2030. It starts next year, when 22 per cent of all new car sales will have to be zero-emission. 

This hasn’t changed with the recent announcement, but it’s the sudden spike. 

For instance, in 2027 the figure is 38 per cent and then jumps by a whopping 14 percentage points the year after to 52 per cent. 

And if carmakers don’t meet those targets they’ll be fined, or they can buy ‘credits’ from other carmakers, so the likes of Tesla, Polestar and MG will be in the pound seat in selling off their tokens. 

For dealers, though, it means that from next year the targets to sell EVs will be higher than ever. 

The OEMs will likely slash the prices of new EVs and heavily incentivise sales, but are the buyers ready? Will dealers have to actively sell EVs to customers who want a petrol? I just don’t know. 

You can tell the carmakers are hedging their bets, too, as a number of new models that were originally launched as pure-electrics will now come with a petrol engine. Models such as the Jeep Avenger will be available in EV and petrol flavours. 

But perhaps I’m worrying unnecessarily because, hilariously, all of this could change with a general election next year. 

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Bookies’ favourite Labour has pledged that it’ll reverse the 2035 ban and reinstate the 2030 deadline, meaning there will be even more change on the way. 

A confusing mess? I think that just about sums it up.

This column appears in the current edition of Car Dealer – issue 188 – along with news, reviews, features and much more! Read and download the magazine for free here!

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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