FORD of Britain chairman Roger Putnam has warned fleets to expect the price of cars to rise as manufacturers work to meet ever more stringent emissions and safety legislation.
He said while manufacturers were aiming for an average carbon dioxide emission target of 140g/km, it was likely to be tightened to 120g/km by 2012. Meanwhile, he said, to satisfy ever-increasing crash safety requirements, cars needed to be larger, making the low emission targets more difficult to achieve and setting car manufacturers a daunting challenge.
Speaking at the launch of the new Ford Focus C-MAX in Austria, Putnam said: 'We need a breakthrough in technology. Although the CO2 issue, which has been highlighted by changes to benefit-in-kind tax, is driving us towards smaller engines, pedestrian protection requirements are driving us in the opposite direction.
'Future legislation may require some form of active airbag at the bumper or bonnet level to help protect pedestrians.'
He pointed to advances in petrol technology, such as Ford's SCi direct injection engines, and the latest diesels developed in conjunction with PSA Peugeot-Citroen as short-term improvements in the meantime.
He added: 'There will be a price to pay, but the consumer isn't prepared to pay more.'
Putnam also warned that advances in diesel technology would be costly for manufacturers and diesel cars would become more expensive as a result, which would compound the fact that UK diesel sales are already hampered by the highest fuel duty in Europe.
'It is the paradox of being at the cutting edge of carbon dioxide legislation in the UK but we pay a premium for using diesel,' he said.
He added that the End-of-Life Vehicle Directive would be another huge financial burden for the motor industry, as vehicle manufacturers would become responsible for disposing of end-of-life vehicles.