The EU's Cars2020 action plan for the car industry has the potential to turbocharge latest UK government plans to help manufacturers such as JLR compete globally, improve the business environment and boost research and development, says Midlands MEP Phil Bennion.
The Lib Dem MEP for the region which contains Jaguar Land Rover's main factories and many of Britain's remaining carmakers spoke out ahead of a debate and vote due later today in the Employment Committee of the European Parliament on the proposals.
The Cars2020 action plan launched by the European Commission is meant to define and shape a car industry which remains strong and competitive globally while playing a full part in de-carbonising energy for sustainable road transport.
Phil Bennion, ALDE group shadow for the Employment Committee's opinion on the plans, said:
"Cars2020 is basically about how to focus support for research and development to help Europe's car industry meet the challenge of becoming greener but get more competitive at the same time.
"We are doing all we can to boost public transport but unless we help car manufacturers achieve a step change in the way vehicles use energy, with far less dependence on fossil carbon, then we will not win the war against climate change.
"Crucially, this action plan is also about practical ways the EU and member states can improve the business environment for the car industry through a strong single market and 'smart' legislation to help companies become more competitive.
"We need to reduce red tape while putting in place a more coherent approach to legislation affecting carmakers, with practical incentives to encourage them to develop green technology.
"Much of Cars2020 fits closely with Vince Cable's strategy at the UK government level - Driving Success – which also is based on boosting research and improving the conditions business operates in.
"With the right synergy the EU could turbocharge what the coalition is doing to help our manufacturers adapt to a de-carbonised future faster than the competition.
"The plan will also be important in harmonising international standards and will play a complementary role in the upcoming trade deal with the US, where our manufacturers could get a big boost.
"I am however anxious to ensure that the EU takes account of the differences in market profile of our manufacturers. When it comes to setting green targets we must not disadvantage niche carmakers like JLR, Aston Martin and Morgan compared to general manufacturers such as Peugeot/Citroen or Volkswagen/Audi.
"I am also not at all convinced that speed control devices have a useful part to play, which some MEPs seem very keen on. As a Liberal Democrat I cannot see why it is desirable to override the decisions of a driver who has a good safety record and is properly insured. Transport can be green without destroying people's freedom of movement."
Notes: UK government strategy for the car industry is at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/driving-success-uk-automotive-strategy-for-growth-and-sustainability
The Cars2020 action plan follows a decision by the European Commission to re-launch the CARS 21 High Level Group as a follow-up of the Commission Communication "European strategy on clean and energy-efficient vehicles", adopted on 28 April 2010. Cars2020 summary proposals: