Industry body says we need to buy petrols and diesels to fund alternative fuels.

Government policies that deter consumers from buying petrol and diesel cars would hamper progress towards cleaner vehicles, according to one of the leading automotive industry bodies.

Speaking at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) annual dinner, the organisation’s president, Tony Walker, said that reducing demand for conventionally fuelled vehicles would not reduce air quality in future because it would reduce the funds available for manufacturers to develop cleaner engines.

‘The internal combustion engine is not dead,’ he said. ‘It is the path to a cleaner and greener future. Banning diesel and petrol cars might be a sound bite that works but it’s not a policy that works. If you ban them you disrupt the new car market and you hamper investment in the electric, emission-free vehicles of tomorrow. You set the future back.’

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Walker also told attendees that the automotive industry was suffering from political uncertainty surrounding diesel legislation and Brexit, calling on the government to act fast and ensure that there is a transitional period after Britain leaves the European Union.

‘We have huge challenges,’ he said. ‘Consumer confidence has fallen leading to a downturn in sales. Uncertainty about Brexit – and market confusion over diesel – are taking their toll.’

Walker claimed that a hard Brexit would be a ‘real threat’ to the automotive industry’s competitiveness, and that the government needed to step in and provide certainty.

‘I am very proud that today our UK automotive industry competes globally on quality, productivity, flexibility and cost. But competitiveness comes hard-won. It can be easily lost. A hard Brexit would undermine all that we have collectively achieved. It is a hurdle we cannot ignore.

‘We ask government to help provide the conditions in which we can compete. Like every other industry, we need certainty now.’

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