Carlos Tavares, the boss of PSA Peugeot Citroen and Vauxhall/Opel, fired a warning shot across the bows of governments during a speech at the Frankfurt motor show today, saying that a total ban on internal combustion engines and the enforced introduction of electric cars could put the industry at risk.
The mercurial Portuguese warned that governments dictating technology will stifle creativity in the motor industry, put finances and jobs in jeopardy - and might also have safety and health issues in the future, which those governments will be responsible for.
“I want to be very clear here,” he said, “we are moving from a technology-neutral era into an instruction to go electric. From now on, the scientific responsibility is in the hands of governments. So if, in 20 or 30 years, there are health or safety issues [with electric vehicles], they will be in the hands of governments.”
Tavares also thinks that the current, heavily subsidised market for electric cars is a poor basis for dictating their adoption, risking jobs, profitability and therefore the sustainability of the motor industry.
“If you have ministers in Europe who say they will forbid the use of internal combustion engines, then I have to comply and we will have to transform, re-engineer and retrain. But if electrification is not profitable in future, we all have a problem,” he said.
“How do we ensure jobs in the motor industry if the cost structure cannot secure future investment?” he said, calling for a broader debate on the subject and cautioning that if governments dictate electric cars which cost more, then the industry will either be smashed or fewer people will be able to afford a car, “which is a wider social issue”.
Tavares backed his assertion that such a blanket electrification laws would restrict innovation by offering up PSA’s Hybrid Air system, which is a low-cost, compressed air boost for internal combustion engines.
“If we had gone with Hybrid Air, it would be dead by now,” he said, “because although it is highly efficient, it is not electric. That’s really bad from a citizen’s perspective.”