Car manufacturers have warned that a new car could cost British buyers at least £3,000 more over the next four years because of European Union safety and environmental directives.
According to The Daily Telegraph, car makers accused the EU of imposing “contradictory” obligations on designers, which were likely to push up prices on best-selling models by 25 to 35%.
The paper said the European Commission is requiring companies to redesign car fronts so that pedestrians are less likely to be killed or seriously injured if they are knocked over yet, at the same time, it is insisting that new cars must produce 25% less carbon dioxide emissions by 2008, compared with levels in 1995 – the reduction achieved so far is about 10%.
Manufacturers reportedly say the requirements pull in opposite directions, as safety innovations such as impact-absorbing bonnets and more sophisticated braking and stability systems tend to add weight and this increases the need for a more powerful engine, which is likely to entail higher emissions rather than lower.
Solutions would involve much greater cost and this would have to be passed to consumers, senior industry figures told the Daily Telegraph at the Birmingham motor show.
Car makers also reportedly said a third EU regulation, covering the recycling of scrapped vehicles from 2007, would be a further financial burden.
Ford UK CEO Roger Putnam told the newspaper that the tensions between the different directives virtually required engineers to “defy the laws of physics” and predicted that the directives could add €5,000 (about £3,300) to showroom prices for a typical European car – the average price for the top 10 sellers in Britain last year was about £10,500.
The Daily Telegraph said that, while visiting the show, trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt expressed sympathy for the car manufacturers. “The cumulative effect of regulation from Europe is a concern,” she reportedly said.