A row has broken out between the European Commission and van manufacturers over tough new proposals to cut CO2 emissions from light commercial vehicles.
The EU wants to see an average CO2 figure of 175g/km and an average miles per gallon figure of 42.8 from 2014 – but the plan has been labelled as unrealistic and ignoring the economic facts of present the recession.
Paul Everitt, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “Vans are an integral part of the European economy and at a time of economic downturn and belt-tightening, businesses do not have the capacity to invest in new products.
“Industry needs sufficient lead times and reasonable targets to provide affordable products. These must be fit for purpose as business tools. In the current economic climate, the EU regulation must maintain the sector’s diversity while encouraging innovation and the move to low carbon models.”
The call was backed by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), which believes the proposal completely ignores not only the economic reality of the times but also the inherent characteristic of LCV engines.
Ivan Hodac, secretary general of the ACEA, said: “There is a focus on technologies regardless of the market situation or customer needs. There is not much consideration of the different uses of the vehicles concerned. That is a missed opportunity.
“Lead-time is essential to sustain investments and adapt vehicles at a reasonable time in their product cycle, keeping them affordable. Light commercial vehicles have a substantially longer development phase as well as product cycle than passenger cars.”
The plan has now been adopted by the EU but is subject to approval by the European Parliament and Member States.
From the UK fleet buyers’ point of view, there is no financial incentive or disincentive at present to choose vans with low CO2 emissions figures. However, industry pundits believe that new legislation such as graduated vehicle excise duty (VED) charges may follow soon.