• Bloomberg, Reuters


Automakers in the U.K. are pressing for government funding to meet a new goal of killing off combustion cars by 2035, even as demand for electric models is surging.

The U.K. will ban the sale of new gasoline, diesel and hybrid cars from 2035, five years earlier than planned, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Tuesday, with the aim of reducing air pollution.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said Wednesday that the prime minister’s announcement must come with a package of fiscal incentives, policies and investment.

The trade group spoke out for a second day after fresh data showed a 7.3 percent drop in the overall auto market in January. The decline extends a three-year slump that coincides with the 2016 Brexit vote, which sowed consumer uncertainty, and fewer diesel purchases since new restrictions came into place.

“Consumer confidence is not returning to the market and will not be helped by government’s decision to add further confusion and instability by moving the goalposts,” SMMT chief Mike Hawes said in a statement.

The U.K. ban would herald the end of over a century of reliance on the internal combustion engine. The British government said that, subject to consultation, it would roll out the ban earlier than 2035 if a faster transition was possible.

Johnson’s new push includes the early eradication of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles that accounted for more than 13,000 purchases during January. Including a tripling of battery-only sales to 4,054 cars, alternative vehicles accounted for about 12 percent of the market during the month, the highest on record.

The SMMT is seeking the extension of a grant for plug-in models that’s due to expire next month, saying demand for lower-emissions vehicles always drops when incentives are pulled.

Countries and cities around the world have announced plans to crack down on diesel vehicles following the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal, and the European Union is introducing tougher carbon dioxide rules.

The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centers by 2025. France is preparing to ban the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars by 2040.

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