Automakers lobbying strongly against progressive EV policies, report reveals

Toyota was one of several brands accused of negative policy lobbying in Japan and the US

A new analysis of the lobbying practices of 15 major automakers and eight trade bodies, published this week by InfluenceMap, revealed that brands producing the lowest proportion of EVs are pushing hardest against progressive policies to cut emissions from road transport and energy systems.

The report accuses Japanese carmakers of taking “active, strategic engagement” against such regulations, giving Suzuki, Honda and Toyota low scores. EVs accounted for no more than 30% of the production of each of these brands in 2023.

The four firms are all members of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), which has implored the Japanese Government not to introduce a zero-emissions vehicle mandate. Such a mandate compels carmakers to ensure that an ever-increasing proportion of their production is accounted for by EVs.

JAMA has also advocated for alternative fuels and hydrogen fuel cells as alternatives to EVs, despite these technologies being less mature, and has called for hybrid vehicles with petrol and diesel engines to be supported in the long-term.

InfluenceMap has additionally accused Mazda, Honda and Toyota of lobbying against new emissions standards for light-duty vehicles in the US.

Only one automaker – Tesla – is identified as supportive of this policy in the US. Other opponents include Volkswagen, Stellantis, Tata Motors, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, General Motors, Ford and BMW.

The standards were signed off in March and InfluenceMap believes that the weakening of targets is partly attributable to lobbying.

Final vehicle emissions standards in the EU were also tweaked at the last minute to put alternative fuels on a level footing with EVs, while Australia’s newly-introduced vehicle efficiency standards now target a 50% reduction in emissions by 2029 compared to the 60% initially proposed.

Meanwhile in the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year rolled back the ban on new petrol and diesel car and van sales from 2030 to 2035.

The UK subsequently revised its ZEV mandate targets. InfluenceMap claims that many automakers, through the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), called for a one-year delay to penalties under the mandate. This was ultimately not implemented by the government.

“Without an immediate gear change from automakers and their industry associations to reform their climate policy engagement they will continue to weaken and delay climate rules globally, steering the world to the brink,” said InfluenceMap’s director Ben Youriev.

Manufacturing in transition

Transport is the world’s third-largest source of emissions, behind the energy sector and the food system.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) net-zero by 2050 scenario includes an end to new petrol and diesel car and van sales in developed nations by 2035. Moreover, in this scenario, EVs and hybrids account for two-thirds of global light-duty vehicle sales by 2030.

InfluenceMap found that only one in five of the automakers are planning for these types of vehicles to account for 66% of sales or more in 2030. The leaders are Tesla, which already offers a 100% electric portfolio, plus Mercedes and BMW. At the other end of the table, Suzuki is only planning for a 10% electric portfolio by the end of the decade.

Another issue identified in the report is the trend of automakers engaging with policymakers and customers to push towards larger, less efficient petrol and diesel models. This issue of ‘car bloat’ is a particular challenge in the US and Australia. SUVs currently account for around 57% of production but this proportion is likely to reach 64% by 2030.

Octopus Energy chief executive Greg Jackson argued in an interview with Carbon Brief this week that legacy automakers are struggling to compete with newer firms that prioritise EVs, so staff are therefore bad-mouthing EVs to their industry associations and media contacts. He spoke of lobbying being fuelled by fear in the face of an “existential threat”.

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    We should remember that electricity has to be generated somewhere.
    The only non-carbon, completely controllable, available at all times, waste controlled, energy source is from nuclear reactors, at present, fission units, and probably fusion in coming decades.
    But petrol and diesel are ideal as transport fuels.
    Batteries demand scarce elements, and are very heavy.
    There is simply no easy answer, at ninety two, after a life in the science of energy generation, I have to recognise it, as must we all

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