Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)

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London, United Kingdom

Climate Lobbying Overview: The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) appears to be engaging with mixed positions on several important streams of UK automotive climate policy in 2019-21, 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: While the SMMT has communicated broad support efforts to reduce emissions from road transport in the UK, the organization does not appear to be fully aligned with the UK government’s commitment to reach net-zero emissions by the year 2050, with SMMT CEO Mike Hawes stating in a February 2018 press release that “Industry shares government’s vision of a zero-emission future” but not specifying a date. Similarly, the 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.

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 2021 target 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 and its 2018 submission to the Climate Change Committee’s Call for Evidence on Building a Net Zero Economy. However, the SMMT has also negatively engaged on Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), opposing changes to VED in 2019 to provide greater incentives for battery electric vehicles.

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 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 December 2020 UK government testimony and in a April 2021 UK consultation response. For heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), the SMMT also supported policies including purchase incentives and zero-tax rates on vehicle 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, suggested support for a proposed UK zero-emission vehicle mandate.

However, the SMMT has also 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 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 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 incentivise 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 [838759 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.