Industry players and markets

Electric vehicle, the European Commissioner Thierry Breton appears to be pressing the brake pedal

Wednesday, 22 November 2023

The European commissioner is banking on the 2026 review clause to adjust the thermal extinction. A week after the European Union reached a final agreement on the phase-out of new vehicles with internal combustion engines in 2035, Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, expresses reservations. The European Commissioner appears to be pressing the brake pedal in an interview with several European newspapers. He is now emphasising the 2026 review clause included in this agreement: "I am announcing the formation of a working group to prepare for the 2026 deadline." Every three months, I will bring together this group of major car manufacturers, suppliers, unions, user associations, cities, power companies, and so on. Its goal will be to identify and address the challenges associated with implementing this massive transformation. The questions are numerous, and we may have to adapt the measures supporting the trajectory towards 2035 in 2026, or before 2026.

Reassure the industry

The difficulties of this transition are well known. Thierry Breton recalls them as follows: 600,000 jobs were lost, electric vehicles were sold at exorbitant prices, raw materials for the manufacture of electric batteries were in short supply, and there were simply too few charging stations. "We've been making these arguments for the past two years. It's a shame they weren't taken into account, says a sector expert. These statements are made in the present. Above all, they appear to be intended to reassure the industry about the support that can be put in place to deal with this revolution. Thierry Breton mentions, without going into detail, the safety nets that will be installed to avoid the crash, stating that he will do "everything possible to enforce" the 2035 deadline.

It is difficult to imagine this deadline being missed. Because the blow has already been delivered on the industrial front. Long-term investments have already been mobilised in response to this shift. Even Thierry Breton's speech is upsetting to them. "We have been explaining to SMEs and ETIs for months that this decision is final, and that everyone must invest in the new electricity value chain," a sector participant is surprised. For months, the major manufacturers have been preparing, each with their own method of adjusting their schedule in response to market developments. Within the Renault Group, the Renault brand intends to be the first to transition to 100% electric by 2030, with 100% French manufacturing. The Dacia brand will eventually play thermal extensions, at least until 2035, and possibly longer if legislation changes. And, of course, only if sales of the most accessible and fuel-efficient vehicles remain stable.

Stellantis claims agility through the use of multi-energy factories. Vehicles with battery or combustion engines are assembled on the same assembly line. "And if the politicians backtrack, we'll be ready to adjust", we're going to say. Thierry Breton also urges European automotive players to remain invested in thermal energy after the axe date. "I respect the decision of some to accelerate towards a 100% electric offer," he says, "but I also encourage manufacturers to continue to produce thermal cars, create quality jobs, and remain an export force." During a visit to Turin in April, the European Commissioner tweeted: "If the EU ends the sale of thermal engines in Europe after 2035, this does not apply to the rest of the world." The European automotive ecosystem must maintain its presence on the export market with Clean Euro 7 vehicles manufactured in Europe.

Perplexed industrialists

Statements that perplex industrialists. How can we suggest that they manufacture thermal vehicles for African and South American countries in Europe, where production costs are high? They call it economic nonsense. Especially since all of them already have industrial sites in these areas that will run on thermal power after 2035.

But Thierry Breton has a vested interest in ensuring that the thermal has a future: he is the bearer of the new Euro 7 pollution standard, which will be implemented in the next - and final - generation of thermal vehicles. To accomplish this, he declares that he will "assemble another group of industrialists to define the technologies that should be developed, such as in fuel chemistry, mechanics, thermo-combustion, and so on." However, some manufacturers, including Stellantis, have already stated that they will not invest in the equipment required by Euro 7, which will raise the price of thermal vehicles by 3,000 to 5,000 euros. Many manufacturers are no longer interested in investing in thermal!


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