Fleet News

Put a spin on diesel, Peugeot urges Labour

PEUGEOT has urged the Government to put a 'new spin' on diesel and not to 'put the boot in' to the fuel of the future. And, at the British International Motor Show in Birmingham, other manufacturers were queuing up to back Peugeot managing director Tod Evans's bid to persuade the Government to change its anti-diesel stance.

Hopes are high that the Government may indicate a change of policy when Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown delivers his annual Pre-Budget report. Evans's latest bid for a fair deal for diesel follows a two-hour meeting with civil servants from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Department of Trade and Industry and the Treasury at the manufacturer's Coventry headquarters.

In March the Government is planning to introduce a new Vehicle Excise Duty system based on carbon dioxide emissions with a £10 penalty for diesel vehicles and in April 2002 a CO2-based company car tax system is to be introduced with a proposed 3% penalty for diesel vehicles.

Despite the diesel penalty, the diesel option remains, in most cases, the tax-efficient option for company car drivers.

However, Evans and other vehicle manufacturing company chiefs say the Government's doubly whammy approach is being interpreted by fleet managers and company car drivers as a 'don't buy diesel' message, despite billions of pounds being spent by manufacturers on 21st century diesel engine technology.

Evans said: 'New-era common rail diesels like our HDi range are the engines for today. With massive investment and development they're now clean, incredibly economical and smooth and punchy to drive. The Government should be helping us change motorists' perceptions away from the old image.

'What we need is some of that famous spin of theirs. But they continue to put the boot in. It doesn't make any sense at all. Diesel is the fuel of the future. We just need to convince the UK Government of that.'

Evans wants the Government to use its fiscal policies - pump prices, VED and benefit-in-kind tax - to encourage increased use of diesel: 'If the Government signalled that diesel is a viable clean fuel for the next five to 10 years, manufacturers will invest further; consumers will change their cars more frequently which will remove older cars from the road; and that will mean cleaner air to breathe.'

It is understood the Government is concerned that if diesel-engined vehicles enjoyed tax parity with their petrol-engined rivals manufacturers would be unable to cope with demand for diesel vehicles. Therefore, in a bid to ensure there was no sales peak through diesel vehicles being massively advantaged by the CO2-based new tax policies, the penalty structure was formulated.

Diesel car sales are dominant on the continent and Citroen UK managing director Alain Favey said: 'It is absolutely impossible for me to understand the British Government's attitude, particularly with new generation common rail diesel engines. It is unjustifiable to have such a negative view of diesel. I don't know how the Government can reach its Kyoto targets without diesel; it is completely unrealistic.'

Volkswagen's head of fleet Vince Kinner said: 'We must reach out to company car drivers and fleet managers and convince them how good new diesel engine technology is. Far more people are aware of the capabilities of today's diesel engines, but a large part of the fleet market has still not experienced the fact that diesel is as good as, and in many cases better than, petrol-engine performance.'

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