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Government EV policy has car buyers ‘thinking again’, says Stellantis boss Alison Jones

Alison Jones, Stellantis Country Manager UK

The UK Government’s counter-intuitive policy of reducing EV purchase incentives while urging their widespread adoption has car buyers “thinking again”, says Stellantis boss Alison Jones.

Jones, who was appointed Stellantis Country Manager and senior vice-president earlier this month, said that the decision to cut the plug-in car grant (PiCG) by a further £500 and lower its cap to £35,000 added confusion and complicated the message ahead of 2030’s ban on the sale of non-electrified new cars.

Speaking to AM, Jones said: “We know from one year to the next that (policies) change at short notice. What was a surprise about this was taking it in context of the industrial strategy and stopping the sale of ICE new cars from 2030.

“Combining that with this announcement and it was a surprise, and very unwelcome.”

Jones added: “At the moment it looks like the Government is driving the shift to 2030 through CO2 targets alone. It’s more stick than carrot and it’s the customer that has been caught out by the latest change.

"Educating the public about EVs is down to the manufacturers and dealers, yes, but what we need from government are policies and taxation that support their adoption and make it appealing.

"When they do something like change the plug-in car grant it adds a layer of confusion for consumers and complicates the message that buying an EV is something that is to be positively encouraged.

"The change is making car buyers think again. Those left considering and wondering are stalling their switch to an EV."

The PiCG has now reduced in value from £7,000 at its launch, to £2,500 following the most recent cut in support.

Today the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced £30m of Government investment in EV and hydrogen technology to help launch studies into the creation of a UK lithium supply chain, improvements in battery safety and the re-use of car batteries.

It indicated that policymakers were taking a new approach to supporting the phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

Jones said that OEMs including recently-formed manufacturing super-group Stellantis, were investing heavily in alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) to meet EU emissions regulations and boost the shift to zero-emission transport.

But, while she praised the new product emerging into the market, she asserted that Government must help deliver the right message to customers by supporting purchases.

Jones also questioned Government’s earlier removal of plug-in hybrids (PHEV) from the PiCG scheme, describing the technology as “a great bridge to EVs, particularly in a one-car family”.

She added: “There is a cost attributed to developing new technology. It all places pressure on margins. If Government wants to speed up CO2 reduction and not allow us to sell ICE new cars from 2030 then it needs to contribute.

“We can drive forward the development and production of low emission vehicles. What I’ve always said, though, is that you need OEMs and retailers to work together, you then need the infrastructure, the energy supplies, the incentives from Government and the correct messaging to really make the transition work.”

Speaking at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) SMMT Electrified 2021 conference last week, the organisations chief executive, Mike Hawes, compared the consistent shifting of Government incentives for EV buyers to a “game of snakes and ladders”.

Hawes joined fellow delegates at today’s SMMT Electrified 2021 conference in calling for a consistent and ongoing approach in future.

BMW UK managing director, Graeme Grieve, described Government’s PiCG changes as “counter intuitive to the statements made ahead of COP26”.

Meanwhile, Polestar chief executive, Jonathan Goodman branded Government’s recent PiCG changes “a mistake” and said that incentives for consumers need to mirror those currently in place for fleet and business in being sustained and consistent.

Goodman said: “Consumers are coming to us and asking a lot of questions about why the grant was there for them one minute and now it’s not.

“We need consistent and ongoing support to drive the adoption of EVs. Customers need to know where they stand.

“There is consistency and certainty in the company car market with the BIK rates. That’s a policy that people have clear visibility of for the next two years.”

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