Ford is leading a fierce trade backlash against Rishi Sunak’s plans to water down some of Britain’s key climate commitments, including delaying a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars until 2030.
The car giant said any relaxation of the 2030 target would harm the government’s “ambition, commitment and consistency”, all of which are key to its production plans.
The ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars was announced by Boris Johnson in November 2020, and as recently as July the government described the date as “immutable”.
And Lisa Brankin, Ford’s UK chairman, said the car industry is “investing to meet this challenge”.
It cited a £40 billion commitment to electrify its cars, with a range of nine electric vehicles to launch by 2025.
Ms Brankin said the range is supported by a £430m investment in Ford’s UK facilities, with further funding planned based on the 2030 target.
“This is the biggest industrial transformation in over a century and the UK’s 2030 target is a key enabler to accelerate Ford towards a cleaner future,” she said .
But, in response to Mr Sunak’s plans to delay the target, potentially until 2035, she said: “Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency.
“Easing by 2030 would undermine all three.”
Ms Brankin said Britain needed to focus on “strengthening the electric vehicle market in the short term”, while supporting consumers amid a cost of living crisis.
In a significant intervention, Dr Anna Valero, a member of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s economic advisory council, warned the plans would be “bad for the UK”.
She described the weakening of green policies as “another example of political volatility that prevents businesses from making the long-term investment decisions necessary for a stronger, more resilient and more sustainable economy.”
And Labor has used the disagreement between Mr Sunak and the business community to accuse the Prime Minister of “weak leadership” – although the party has so far refused to maintain the 2030 ban if he wins the next elections.
Shadow Treasury Secretary Darren Jones said: “We’re going to have to talk to the car manufacturers, who will be as surprised as we are by these announcements. »
He told Sky News: “This is a classic example of Rishi Sunak’s weak leadership. The ministers did not seem to know it, we have just seen it… the Minister of the Interior did not know the details. This is a chaotic approach to running the country, it is completely unacceptable and it is damaging the economy.”
The interventions come as industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders warned Mr Sunak’s plans were “concerning”.
Chief executive Mike Hawes said the industry had invested billions of pounds in electric vehicles, batteries and other technologies – with support from the Government.
“So we’re wondering…what’s the strategy here? he told the BBC. “And we don’t really know what’s going to happen now,” he said.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank has blasted Mr Sunak over the plans, which come just months after ministers invested £500m in a new electric battery gigafactory in being built in the UK by Jaguar Land Rover.
Associate director Luke Murphy said: “What is the point of investing half a billion pounds of public money in an electric battery factory and then phasing out petrol and diesel?
He added that the race to net zero is “the economic opportunity of the 21st century” and said “investors need stability and certainty”.
“While other countries are racing ahead, the UK is going backwards,” he added.
And Ian Plummer, commercial director of online car seller Auto Trader, said any delay in banning diesel and petrol by 2030 would be “a hugely retrograde step” and would put “politics ahead of targets”. of net zero emissions”.
He added: “This turnaround will cause a huge headache for manufacturers, who are crying out for clarity and consistency, and it will do little to encourage the vast majority of drivers who have not yet purchased an electric car to do so. change.
“Rather than embrace the challenge and use the tax system to allay concerns about affordability, the Prime Minister took the easy option with one eye on polling day. »