Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)

InfluenceMap Score
for Climate Policy Engagement
Performance Band
Organization Score
London, United Kingdom

Climate Lobbying Overview: The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) appears to be engaging with mixed to negative positions on several important streams of UK automotive climate policy in 2021-22, including consistently opposing stringent phase-out dates for ICE-powered vehicles in the UK, while supporting incentives to promote electric vehicles.

Top-line Messaging on Climate Policy: The SMMT appears broadly supportive of the UK's 2050 net-zero target, with the SMMT's Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, stating in a July 2021 press release that the SMMT "welcomed" a UK government 'greenprint' report to decarbonize all transport by 2050. However, SMMT appears to take a mixed position on the need for climate regulation, advocating for a “technology-neutral” approach to government policy and emphasizing incentives, infrastructure development, and consumer acceptance over more stringent forms of regulation such as sales bans. The SMMT does not appear to have disclosed whether it supports the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Engagement with Climate-Related Regulations: The SMMT appears unsupportive of ambitious GHG standards for vehicles in the EU, with SMMT CEO Mike Hawes characterizing the EU’s CO2 targets as ‘extremely challenging’ in a January 2020 interview with the Independent newspaper. However, the organization has also repeatedly called for UK emissions standards for light and heavy vehicles to be kept at EU levels post-Brexit. The SMMT has also supported the UK’s continued participation in the EU ETS in its 2020 sustainability report.

Positioning on Energy Transition: The SMMT has supported measures to incentivize the uptake of electric vehicles, including supporting the extension to the plug-in car grant and pushing for tax breaks for zero and low emissions vehicles in the UK’s March 2020 Budget. The SMMT has also supported purchase incentives including making EV purchases VAT-free, and infrastructure investment to encourage the uptake of zero and low emissions vehicles in a December 2020 UK government testimony and in an April 2021 UK consultation response. For heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), the SMMT also supported policies including purchase incentives and zero-tax rates on vehicles to promote the uptake of zero-emission HGVs in a September 2021 UK consultation response. Additionally, an October 2021 media response from SMMT's CEO, Mike Hawes, suggested support for a proposed UK zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate. A September 2021 SMMT consultation paper also appeared to take an unclear position on a UK ZEV mandate, stating "While many manufacturers have a preference for CO2 fleet regulations, a significant and important minority would prefer the ZEV mandate approach". However, a February 2022 SMMT position paper qualified its support for a ZEV mandate on the condition that it is accompanied by ambitious binding targets for EV infrastructure. An April 2022 SMMT press release also emphasized cost and complexity concerns with the UK's proposed ZEV mandate, advocating for the mandate to be "flexible" and for it to be accompanied by purchase incentives and binding charging infrastructure targets. Despite this, in its 2021 Sustainability Report, the SMMT appeared to support a low-carbon modal shift, making recommendations around increased cycling, walking, and public transport use.

The SMMT has been a consistent opponent of bans on the sale of new ICE vehicles in the UK. In February 2020, in response to the ICE sales ban being moved forward to 2035, the SMMT’s CEO Mike Hawes accused the government of moving the goalposts. In September 2020, Hawes opposed a newly proposed 2030 date, saying that the ban “could have a devastating impact on the UK automotive industry and jobs”. In a December 2020 oral testimony to the UK government, the SMMT further emphasized that bringing forward the phase out date to 2030 would be a "massive challenge". Similarly, in an April 2021 UK consultation response, the SMMT welcomed the announcement of a 2030 petrol and diesel and later 2035 phase-out date for hybrids in the UK, while also criticizing the use of the word ‘ban’ in the regulation, suggesting that ICE-powered vehicles could still aid decarbonization. In a September 2021 consultation response the SMMT appeared to advocate that different hybrids (including non-PHEVs) should still be sold in the UK in 2030-35 as part of the ICE phase-out. In a May 2020 letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, reported by the Guardian, the SMMT also supported a scrappage premium which would incentivize the purchase of ICE vehicles.

A September 2021 SMMT UK consultation response on phasing out non-zero emission HGVs stated opposition to a 2040 phase-out date for ICE HGVs, opposing the setting of any phase-out date. Additionally, a report from the SMMT in September 2021 supported general incentives to promote the uptake of zero-emission vans and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), while an accompanying press release quote from SMMT CEO Mike Hawes, appeared unsupportive of ambitious UK phase-out dates for such vehicles.

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