As we gear up for an election, the automotive industry finds itself in a peculiar place. It is not merely a footnote in political discourse – it’s become the headline act of the next election.
It is no secret that the industry is undergoing great transformation, largely spearheaded by the shift to greener motoring. In this period of upheaval, the decisions taken by politicians over the coming years will reverberate for generations. We’ve seen this most prominently through the expansion of Ultra Low Emission Zones (Ulez) and the transition to electric vehicles.
The Ulez initiative, while commendable for its environmental objectives, has become a scorching political potato. These zones are a boon for air quality but a bane for those who can’t afford to upgrade their vehicles. The cost of compliance is not just a number on a balance sheet, it’s a daily reality for millions. There is no easy solution with Ulez. Air quality in major cities needs improvement, but without incentives for motorists to upgrade their vehicles it is simply too expensive for many to comply.
This is something we’ve seen throughout the electric vehicle transition and now it’s become a political powder keg. EVs are heralded as the future, a path to sustainability that reduces emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels.
There have been huge innovations in technology, range and quality in electric vehicles in the last ten years. But there’s an elephant in the room that remains: the cost.he government’s recent decision to simultaneously promote early adoption of electrified cars by banning new internal combustion engine sales, while also scrapping almost all of the remaining subsidies for electric cars and charging infrastructure, has been hugely controversial and myopic.
Across the pond, Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act has been a game-changer for the auto industry, offering tax breaks, loans, and rebates to bolster the electric vehicle industry. It has not been without its own controversy, but it is a far cry from the UK’s approach of pulling the plug on consumer grants for electric vehicles and home chargers and to let the market decide the cost of electric cars.
On one hand, people are being regulated towards greener alternatives, but on the other hand, the government is shirking away from its leadership responsibility to provide the incentives and support to finance that transition.
The UK has a storied history of car manufacturing, The political implications of this decline are immense. Policies must be designed to support not just the end consumer but also the manufacturers and the broader supply chain, which in the UK supports around 800,000 jobs.
Cars have long defined political elections in the UK. Margaret Thatcher understood the aspirational appeal of car ownership, and Tony Blair targeted the “Mondeo Man,” knowing well that the road to Downing Street often passes through the driveways of middle England.
As we approach another election, politicians must recognise that cars and motorists are not just ballot issues, they are quality-of-life issues and these so often define elections. The electorate will be listening keenly to what each party proposes, not just in terms of environmental impact but also economic feasibility.
We need our politicians to be honest. The government’s push for cleaner, more efficient vehicles comes with a hefty price tag, especially if we aim to be early adopters.
The automotive industry is more than just a component of our economy – it’s a mirror reflecting the nation’s values, aspirations, and challenges. As we accelerate towards a greener future, let’s ensure that the journey is one that everyone can afford to take – not just the wealthy.