It’s a bad day when you draw condemnation from both self-appointed global green guy Al Gore and conservative ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but current PM Rishi Sunak’s surprise move to push back the ban on internal combustion powered cars has seemingly pissed off many people (outside of some conservatives). You know which group seems the most upset? Automakers. They are positively steamed.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about Italy’s gas-powered troubles, and a small win for Ford in Canada that may preview what’s to come next for the strike. And, finally, we say goodbye to an automotive legend.
Britain Pushes ICE Ban Back To 2035
In a surprise move, the Tory government of PM Sunak has pulled what critics are calling a “U-turn” on the country’s recent ban on ICE-powered cars (with exceptions) starting in 2030 (along with rolling back a lot of other environmental initiatives). You can read the speech here, but here are the highlights.
Now I believe deeply that when you ask most people about climate change, they want to do the right thing, they’re even prepared to make sacrifices.
But it cannot be right for Westminster to impose such significant costs on working people especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet and to interfere so much in people’s way of life without a properly informed national debate.
That’s especially true because we’re so far ahead of every other country in the world.
It’s not for me to judge how much a guy who has a bigger personal fortune than the King actually cares about the lives of working people, but that’s the stated reasoning behind this (or, potentially, an attempt to woo conservatives ahead of his party’s last nomination before a general election).
While some conservatives are cheered by this news, it seems to be fairly unpopular with the moderates in his party and pretty much everyone else. From The Telegraph this morning:
Senior Tory Alok Sharma, Cop26 president, said the U-turn “will not help economically or electorally”, while former minister Sir Simon Clarke said the PM had acted against the country’s “environmental, economic, moral and political interests”.
Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who led the government’s recent net zero review, accused Mr Sunak of jeopardising the UK’s international standing: “It will potentially destabilise thousands of jobs and see investment go elsewhere.”
Mr Johnson warned Mr Sunak he was in danger of losing “ambition for this country”, and said that businesses were desperate for “certainty about our net zero commitments”. Lord Goldsmith went further to call for a general election “now”.
Being PM is a tough gig and The Telegraph here is focusing on members of the Tory party that are historically pro-environment, but that bit about jobs isn’t wrong. The country was just starting to see a new round of investment in automotive production based on their commitment to electric vehicles.
Automakers are not pleased, either, because they’ve felt like they’ve gotten the runaround.
Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three. We need the policy focus trained on bolstering the EV market in the short term and supporting consumers while headwinds are strong: infrastructure remains immature, tariffs loom and cost-of-living is high.
Watt Electric Vehicles:
The decision to scale back the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car and light van sales sends completely the wrong message to industry and customers. The UK can and should be a global leader in zero emission mobility. Government needs to be strategically consistent and introducing greater levels of incentivisation to bolster consumer confidence, further promoting a burgeoning industry, not creating uncertainty by moving the goalposts.
It is especially disappointing given the crucial role UK Government has played in promoting the development of electrification technology through the superb innovation infrastructure and funding made available by Innovate UK and the Advanced Propulsion Centre.
EV automaker Everrati:
Ever since the deadline was set in 2020, awareness and desire to go electric has increased rapidly across all sectors – and, indeed, demand for our products has accelerated year-on-year as forward-thinking consumers add luxury vehicles to their garages that are both sustainable and futureproofed.
But by rowing back, the UK Government has not only pushed our net zero plan a further five years down the road, but risked fostering procrastination in a burgeoning market. It is also disappointing as the UK is home to so many innovative companies who have invested in developing the latest in electrification technology which is not only better for the planet but genuinely advances the art of the automobile for both today’s generation and tomorrow’s.
We have a huge opportunity to lead on zero emissions mobility, but the UK government has sent completely the wrong message, both domestically and globally.
Also, Al Gore was big mad, but that’s not a surprise.
In my mind, it seems like this could have very little to do with the working class and more to do with the precarious structure of the current UK government (In the last 13 months they’ve had three different prime ministers). That is a callous view, but it’s otherwise hard to explain why the PM would suddenly toss a fairly uncontroversial climate agenda and risk the country’s long-term industrial position.
Here’s the complex bit, though: He’s not entirely wrong. Britain probably isn’t going to be ready to completely transition to electric cars in 2030. Their infrastructure is not equipped for it and the gulf between where they are now and where they’re going is fairly wide.
Still, you don’t score a goal by constantly moving the goal posts backwards. If I want my kid to go to sleep at 9 pm I tell her she needs to be to bed by 8 pm and that’s how I’ve viewed all of these ICE bans. They’re a ticking clock to force people into action and, sure, in 2029 they can be relaxed a little if they need to be. Relaxing them now seems counterproductive, especially if you believe the environment is really a ticking clock of its own with anthropogenic causes.
Rishi’s point is, basically: We’ve already done enough:
We’ve had the fastest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the G7. Down almost 50% since 1990.
The US? No change at all.
China? Up by over 300%.
And when our share of global emissions is less than 1%, how can it be right that British citizens, are now being told to sacrifice even more than others?
Great Britain, but the Great is silent.
Marelli Shutting Down Internal Combustion Plant, Citing Lack Of Demand
The Marelli plant in Emilia Romagna, Italy, is responsible for a lot of the small plastic and aluminum parts an internal combustion engine needs to operate. But, with falling demand due to electrification, the company has decided to close the plant.
Expect more of this.
Ford And Canadian Union Make A Tentative Deal
While the strike in the United States continues on, Ford’s avoided a slowdown in two companies by offering Unifor (Canada’s UAW equivalent) a deal the union couldn’t refuse.
Details on the deal won’t be presented until after they are shared with Unifor members at ratification meetings being held “in the near future,” according to a news release. The parties early Tuesday morning had agreed to extend the talks 24 hours after the original deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday, with Unifor instructing its members to remain at work unless they received alternate instructions from the union.
“We believe that this tentative agreement, endorsed by the entire master bargaining committee, addresses all of the items raised by members in preparation for this round of collective bargaining,” Unifor National President Lana Payne said in a statement. “We believe that this agreement will solidify the foundations on which we will continue to bargain gains for generations of autoworkers in Canada.”
The big question is how much this impacts what the UAW is trying to do.
Peter Mullin, Legendary Collector, Has Died
There are few collectors in the entire history of the automobile with such exquisite taste as Peter Mullin. The collector and philanthropist made his money in the insurance industry and then, seemingly, put a large percentage of that fortune into cars, especially early French cars.
Mullin was a contributor to, participant in, and board member of car museums and associations too numerous to list, including a long partnership with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. His own museum in California is outstanding.
I thought the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum summed it up nicely:
Peter was a man with an exquisite eye, a fierce advocate for the preservation of the automobile, and a visionary collector. Peter will forever leave a lasting impact in the automotive world. We honor his legacy.
Our condolences to his friends and family.
The Big Question
Does it matter? Is the UK’s move actually going to change anything or is it just grist for the outrage mill?
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