What, you might wonder, does the Government have against the car industry?
Last year, you may recall, a ban on combustion-engined cars from 2040 was announced. And then, a few hours later, the Government clarified to remove the word 'ban' and open the door to the possibility of hybrids living on. Except nobody in Government would commit to what actually constituted a hybrid.
And now, almost a year on, we have part two, in which well-placed sources leak the fact that new cars that can travel less than 50 miles on electricity will indeed be banned from sale. Apply that rule to today’s forecourts and that means 99% of what’s available wouldn’t be eligible.
Now, you might be minded - as Steve Cropley is in his blog on the subject - to conclude that this is a lot of fuss about nothing and that the Government is finally moving to offer some clarity. It’s certainly true that car makers are already well on the path to being able to deliver such vehicles by 2040. Indeed, many will manage it long before then.
But you have to wonder about the wisdom of a Government that sees fit to repeatedly leak its automotive strategies rather than reveal them in a structured fashion, to introduce confusion when it has an opportunity to provide clarity and which seems intent on not taking on board expert advice.
It’s also a pertinent point that the Government appears to be forming a strategy around a ban without offering any insight into how it will incentivise car buyers to adopt the new technology or how it will support the move with the required infrastructure. There’s a phrase about encouraging behaviour by offering a carrot and a stick. So far, only the stick seems to be employed as an incentive to change more than a century of car-buying behaviour.
What we have been left with is another piecemeal announcement, big on headline quality but short on detail. It’s not hard to trace the recent collapse in car sales back to last year’s 2040 announcement and it’s not hard to assume that this afternoon’s leak will only serve to fuel the uncertainty.
Both car buyers and the car industry deserve better.