Industry needs clarity, time to reach EU clean-air target, ANE Congress panelists say

Automotive Industry

Source: Automotive News Europe, 2020-07-31

The European Union needs to offer automakers more clarity on future regulations and to oversee the faster rollout of a charging infrastructure, a panel of industry executives told viewers of the latest Automotive News Europe Congress Conversations. (Click here to see the full discussion.)

"What we expect is ambition and clarity," PSA Group Europe boss Maxime Picat said. Tackling climate change was welcome, but he said automakers were having to cope with a swathe of regulations coming not just from the EU but also local governments and cities. Picat said the industry needs "clear targets and time to roll them out." 

There was still "a lot that could be done to prepare the ground," in terms of rolling out a charging infrastructure ahead of a switch to electric cars, Bernd Körber, Head of the Mini brand at BMW Group, told the panel. "If we get the infrastructure right, we can make [electromobility] a European success story," he added.

Automakers are in the first year of a new EU scheme that penalises them if they fail to reach an industrywide target of 95 grams per kilometer of CO2. Lockdowns imposed in the second quarter to stop the spread of the coronavirus have delayed the rollout of new electrified models crucial to helping automaker meet the CO2 target, but that doesn’t mean fines should be waived for the year, George Galliers, Head of European automotive research for Goldman Sachs, told the panel. 

"We don’t think people should be let off the hook," Galliers said. "Waiving the fines is disadvantageous to those companies that did have their product ready and are well on track to being compliant."

Picat said the shutdowns would make little difference to PSA’s average CO2 for the year. "It delayed the sales of EVs but also internal combustion engine cars, so it doesn’t change the mix. We will definitely be CO2 compliant," he said. Picat added that PSA’s EV sales were profitable, but only with incentives in place. "It’s not PSA subsidising those sales, it’s the government," he said.

Körber said that the rollout of the electric Mini was delayed by the effects of the pandemic, but now the company is seeing "significantly higher demand" for the car than originally planned. He forecast that full-electric and plug-in hybrid models would account for 15% to 20% of Mini’s sales next year.

Goldman Sachs believes European vehicle sales in 2020 will fall 20%, which is a less severe decline than others have predicted. European automakers association ACEA, for example, has forecast a 25% decrease.

"We’re a little bit more confident," Galliers said. Part of the reason for that was France’s generous stimulus package and the tax cut in Germany. Those two markets are likely to see the strongest rebounds in Europe, he said.

The sales recovery isn’t certain, however. "That’s predicated on consumer confidence rebounding and unemployment seeing a steady improvement," Galliers said.

Picat said PSA continues to forecast a 25% decline for Europe’s full-year sales, despite the company’s "strong" sales in June and July. "More bad economic news is still ahead of us," he said, "which is why we are a bit more pessimistic."

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