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‘Anti-diesel agenda’ to hinder progress on CO2 emissions says SMMT

Average new car emissions fell for the 19th consecutive year but the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has warned that the ‘anti-diesel’ agenda will halt further progress.


Mike Hawes, chief executive, SMMT.

Latest SMMT figures show that the UK’s average new car CO2 fell to a new low of 120.1g/km in 2016: down by -1.1% on 2015 and more than a third since 2000. The fall in emissions is backed by new data from the BVRLA which shows that the average new lease car emitted 110.8g/km in 2016 – indicating that the fleet industry remains at the forefront of low-emission vehicle uptake.

However, the SMMT warned that changes in consumer buying behaviour away from diesel in 2016 have caused the rate of progress to slow. UK motorists registered a record number of diesel cars in 2016, but market share for this fuel type fell by 0.8 percentage points.

It also noted that a slowdown in demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles, which saw growth fall from 40.3% in 2015 to 22.2% last year, along with drivers’ increasing preference for SUVs over smaller cars continues to make progress on CO2 reduction much harder.

There are also fears that changes to vehicle excise duty (VED) from 1 April 2017 – which will see 66% of AFVs that are currently exempt from charges face an annual flat rate – could have a further negative impact.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The automotive industry has some of the most challenging CO2 reduction targets of any sector and continues to deliver reductions as it has for nearly two decades. For this positive trend to continue, modern low emission diesels and AFVs such as plug-ins, hydrogen and hybrids must be encouraged with long term incentives. Turning our back on any of these will undermine progress on CO2 targets as well as air quality objectives.”

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney added: “More people are choosing to lease their cars, because it provides affordable access to a newer, cleaner, safer vehicle. We are proud that BVRLA members are leading the way when it comes to reducing emissions – the average leased car added to a member’s fleet in 2016 emitted just 110.8g/km CO2, 7.7% less than the average new car sold in 2016.

“This trend of falling CO2 emissions could be about to end as the Government goes in search of greater tax revenues, particularly from company car drivers. Policymakers need to recognise that motoring and business car taxation is more than just a revenue stream. It can provide a powerful incentive for people and businesses to choose low-emission cars.

“With poorly designed tax incentives, the Government could be putting the brakes on sales of low-emissions cars.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.