RAC Foundation: Continued uncertainty for the automotive industry

For the car industry, the bad news just keeps on coming.

Reports of emissions tests on humans and animals; sales of new diesel cars going through the floor; and three London boroughs looking to impose peak time restrictions – on certain streets – on every vehicle emitting more than 75g CO2 per kilometre regardless of age – effectively meaning a ban on all petrol and diesel cars.

Whether you make cars with internal combustion engines or merely own one, these are perplexing times.

While manufacturers promote the latest models that comply with the current Euro 6 standards, independent analysis shows that, in real world use away from the laboratory, there are still huge variations in how these vehicles perform in terms of emissions, with some of the worst examples emitting levels of NOx many times higher than some of the older Euro 3, 4 and 5 vehicles they are supposed to be bettering; though a few perform above expectations.

The irony is that the next generation of diesel cars – which will be subject to Euro ‘6d’ testing, which comprises both a new lab procedure and an on-the-road element – do actually promise to be much cleaner.

The question is, has public policy already become so entrenched against diesel that no-one will dare purchase these models for fear of the tax burdens and restrictions on use that they might attract?

People’s concerns over what vehicle to buy is understandable; not just from the perspective of preserving their mobility but from a family budget angle.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that – yet again – transport is the single biggest area of household expenditure bar none. One pound in every seven is spent on getting about.

The RAC Foundation has long argued that tackling health concerns over air quality needs a clear, national joined-up strategy that encompasses all emissions, whilst still ensuring we can all get to where we need to be.

The RAC Foundation continues to urge ministers to be explicit over what the government’s long-term plans for petrol and diesel vehicles are.

We have pointed out the damaging impact on new and used car sales, the implications for second-hand car values, and the potential for confusion created by different cities, and even different boroughs, developing their own bespoke schemes to constrain motor vehicle use in the name of promoting air quality. Unfortunately, continued uncertainty might just be what some in government are happy to promote.

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