With Britain joining France in forward-planning a ban on internal combustion vehicles, the world's motoring superpowers have began to react, with perhaps surprising support for existing engine technologies.
In two separate interviews, the CEOs of both Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin have voiced their opposition to attempts to ban internal combustion engines in certain markets with each backing a different existing technology.
The CEO of Daimler (parent company of Mercedes-Benz), Dieter Zetsche, has told Bloomberg that “diesel is worth fighting for,” in response to an increasing push for electrification.
The timing of Zetsche’s statement is poignant as Daimler comes under fire for allegations of colluding with the BMW Group and Volkswagen Group on areas including technology, suppliers, pricing, and emission controls.
Like BMW and Volkswagen, Daimler has announced preliminary electrification plans for future models, including an EQ sub-brand tasked with creating zero-emissions vehicles, but until EV technology becomes widespread the brand intends to use diesel to keep its emissions figures low.
“We’re convinced, like the rest of the carmaking industry, that we’re headed toward electric mobility,” Zetsche explained.
“Until that happens, further reductions in CO2 we’ll be achieved through combustion engines, and here the diesel will play a significant role.”
The timing of Zetsche’s statement closely follows the announcement of a recall of over three million diesel-powered vehicles in Europe to update exhaust control software in line to reduce nitrogen oxide output, with as many as 11 million vehicles expected to be affected globally.
Aston Martin CEO, Andy Palmer, was more scathing in his rebuttal of the UK plan to ban the sale of new internal combustion engines by 2040, accusing the British government of short-sightedness.
“We’re all in this, so if the Government want us to throw away our engines, then it has to work with us, or it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Palmer told the UK’s Autocar.
Palmer suggested that the move had an immediate impact of future decision making for automotive manufacturers, and had the potential to lead to massive job losses if car companies elected to look offshore for EV technology instead of developing and sourcing componentry within the UK.
“It’s not thinking about the consequential effects to the 800,000 people in our industry,” Palmer said. “It’s not taking into account the impact on things like petrol station garages and the [Ford employees] who have been making engines in Bridgend.”
Aston Martin is another company with electrification plans already in progress with a limited-production version of its Rapide announced with an all-electric drivetrain - though arguably the planned 155 units aren’t enough to have a significant impact on emissions outputs.
Palmer also weighed in on reports that the UK’s internal combustion ban could exclude hybrid-assisted vehicles, suggesting such a move would have little impact.
“In 2040 there won’t be a pure combustion car, because hybridisation and plug-in hybridisation will be there with room to spare,” he said. “I genuinely believe plug-in hybrids will represent 40% of the mix even by 2030, so this 2040 ban would be late.”
Palmer also criticised the timing of the announcement for adding additional pressures to the UK auto industry, which was already facing uncertainties in the wake of Brexit.