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Stop tinkering, BMW chief tells Brown

CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Gordon Brown should stop tinkering with the tax strategy in a bid to encourage the uptake of alternatively fuelled vehicles and commit to building a comprehensive refuelling infrastructure.

The attack on the Government and its carbon dioxide emission-based strategy came from BMW (GB) managing director Jim O'Donnell at the manufacturer's annual Press and PR Dinner in London.

He claimed that despite the fuel duty tax changes announced in the recent pre-Budget report, previous tax-based initiatives and the Government's 10-year transport plan, there was little evidence of a long term strategy.

Referring directly to the global challenge faced by manufacturers of reducing vehicle emission levels to an average of 140 g/km of CO2 by 2008 O'Donnell said: 'If we want drivers to switch to alternative fuels there must be a real commitment to building an infrastructure for the future. At BMW we believe we have the answer but we are not getting any help from the UK.'

'Our vision is to have a hydrogen powered car in serious production in 2005 with no price premium over petrol equivalents and no compromise on performance.'

BMW launched a fleet of thirty 7-Series hydrogen fuelled cars at this year's EXPO 2000 in Hanover and said it wanted to develop a network of hydrogen fuel stations across Europe by 2010.

Both Vehicle Excise Duty and company car tax is to be based on vehicle CO2 levels and O'Donnell said: 'I call on the Government to get serious and stop tinkering with reductions in CO2. Ministers must get to grips with supporting the infrastructure we need in this country.'

Gas-powered cars are seen as a stop-gap measure by manufacturers while they work on improving hydrogen fuel cell technology which is seen as the ultimate answer to reducing vehicle pollution as such vehicles produce zero emissions.

However, said O'Donnell, his confidence in the Government's ability to deliver a viable alternative fuel infrastructure was 'not great' given the present state of both Britain's roads and railways.

'Whether we can convince the Government or not we must lobby and we must force the issue as an industry.'

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