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FULL ARTICLE | EDITORIAL 
Goals, to be meaningful, must be achievable 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 18th November 2016 14:11:17 GMT
 

Portugal Lisbon rush hour traffic


Open quote signWe have heard in recent days a steady drumbeat of information from the US that with the incoming Trump administration change will be the new watchword. In particular, with a new emphasis on ĎUS Firstí, various earlier struck deals concerning US relations with other countries and associated trade deals may no longer be worth the paper they are written on. But there may be more. The way things stand today, CAFE, the benchmark for current and future vehicle fuel-economy in the US, may be relaxed. Thatís chiefly because they are seen by some as too challenging for Americaís autoindustry. Now, while driving some environmentalists to despair, thatís not as far-fetched as some might believe. On this issue, Trump has a point. 

What is the point of a setting a goal if by common consent there is no realistic chance of achieving it within a tight timeframe? 

While the jury remains out on the short-term achievability of future CAFE targets, in EU Europe this vexed issue is a great deal clearer.

Todayís cast in stone EU ruling, stipulating a 95g/km fleet average CO2 car emission target by 2021, is just one of those goals. 

Itís achievable, but given todayís realistic world as we face it, not within the next five years. 

We donít live in a perfect world. 

In and outside Europeís autoindustry, todayís consensus is that Zero emission electric cars need to play a vital part to cross the 95g/km hurdle. 

But there is more. 

To get there also calls for a large sales share of more fuel-economical diesels and a notably higher sales share for fuel sipping small cars. 

Even a casual glance at latest car buying trends in Europe reveals a contrasting picture. 

Demand for electric cars is going nowhere in particular. 

Thatís chiefly because these vehicles are still too expensive and still fall short on driving range and a grossly underdeveloped electric car infrastructure. 

Experts believe that by 2025 or 2030 at the latest, most of these blatant shortcomings can be a thing of the past. 

Fast forward just five years from now. 

Realistic chances are that electric cars, a vital part in the achievement of the 95g/km fleet average CO2 level by 2021, in terms of sales mix, will be nowhere near these required levels. 

Also, reality is that West Europeís electric car sales have now fallen in five out of the past six months, including a 16.9 per cent plunge this October.

Diesels, yet another vital ingredient towards achieving these set 95g/km EU goals, are on the decline. 

Given todayís consumer sentiment towards blackend diesels, for todayís unloved diesels, the writing is already on the wall. 

Their West European sales share Ė still around 50 per cent Ė could conceivably plummet between now and 2021. 

The consequence is higher, rather than lower average vehicle consumption in the years ahead. Finally, the trend towards smaller and more fuel economical cars. 

Today, on both sides of the big pond, the market is moving inexorably into the exact opposite direction. 

The sales share of small cars is shrinking and the share going to larger cars, and generally higher CO2-emitting SUV-Crossovers in particular, is not only rising, it is rising fast. 

Before long these vehicles will have captured a third of West European new car sales. 

With few notable exceptions, the betting has to be that for an already stressed-out auto industry this 95g/km target simply cannot be met by 2021. 

Reality check: these crucial issues, given the potential of sky-high penalties from 2021 onwards, could soon develop a life of their own. 

With justification, itís time to renegotiate, with the objective to delay implementation of these unrealistic EU goals until 2025. 

This way, given todayís real-world technological developments, these goals may be met, but without blood, sweat and tears
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