SMMT boss: Government would “struggle to get support” for combustion ban earlier than 2035

The car industry could “just about” cope with a move of the proposed combustion engine sales ban from 2040 to 2035, but is unlikely to support it coming any sooner, says the boss of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 

The government’s consultation seeking views on ending the sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans “by 2035 or earlier if a faster transition appears feasible” ends tomorrow. The originally proposed date was 2040, but a number of climate organisations have called for it to be earlier. 

Speaking at the inaugural Autocar Business Live event, SMMT chief Mike Hawes acknowledged even the “fiercely competitive” car industry is concerned about how to meet an earlier target.

“The government’s made clear it wants to bring forward its 2040 date. I think the majority of the industry could just about make 2035. I think earlier than that you would struggle to get support for.

“The diversity of UK industry will mean some companies will struggle. It’s about how quickly the market will transition and that’s dependent on how attractive the product proposition is, how much it costs and in particular what the infrastructure is.”

Hawes cites the “very good” Committee on Climate Change report published last year which called for a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to be put in place as early as 2030, as the only way to meet the Government’s net zero ambition. 

“But the detail says if you are going to move it forward to 2035 or potentially earlier you have to recognise that there are going to be significant social, industrial, commercial consequences. How you manage that is going to be critical.

“For all the investment you make in these technologies they’ve still got to be affordable and convenient for the consumer. And that means over-supplying the market in terms of charging infrastructure.”