France’s Plateforme Automobile (PFA) says that sales of electrified vehicles – BEVs and hybrids – in France are surging this year.

The PFA made its comments at the Forum on the European Automotive Industry (FEAL) conference held in the North East French city of Lille and postponed to this year following the emergence of the pandemic in 2020.

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“We are on target for 2021 with more than 90,000 sales of 100% EVs – BEVs – for the first eight months of the year. For rechargeable hybrids [includes plug-ins], we are above target as well,” PFA MD, Marc Mortureux told delegates at the Lille conference, which was also being broadcast live due to the current challenges for many posed by international travel.

“Overall, there is one figure that is quite striking. When you add all hybrids, full hybrids, especially Toyota ones, about one third of the market is now electrified vehicles; it is taking off. Opinion is moving favourably – people with an electric vehicle are quite happy [and] they do intend to repurchase.”

A significant part of the momentum towards EVs – in Europe at least – is ever-more stringent regulation emanating from Brussels which is pushing CO2 emissions to fall by 55% in the so-called ‘Fit for 55’ initiative.

The European Green Deal outlines a vision to make Europe the first climate-neutral Continent by 2050. This includes an updated 2030 emissions reduction target of net 55% compared to 1990 levels, up from the current 40% aim.

“To reach the 55% target in the next ten years – the pressure is considerable,” added Mortureux.

“The reality is today, Europe goes much faster than the rest of the world [and] French authorities are very motivated. At PFA level, we know we are going to move to electric; there is no debate [about it], but there are a lot of question marks.

“What we believe is it can be – if we make the right decisions – an opportunity to seize.

“This forced transition [means] manufacturers have put a lot of pressure on pricing. It might become more difficult for some components to be supplied from France; that can be a problem for France and Europe in general. Suppliers [in France] represent more than 130,000 jobs, excluding temporary workers.

“France produces a lot of thermal engines [and] we know there is going to be a loss of employment and we have the possibility to create a lot of [new] jobs. We need to make sure those jobs are actually created. It is a major challenge to retrain workers.”

The PFA also outlined some of the current challenges facing the sector, not least of which is the global pressure on semiconductors, which has been accelerated by the pandemic bringing a suite of concurrent demands on the supply chain.

Allied to that difficulty is the rise in raw material prices and the need to digitalise manufacturing. Equally, competitiveness in France needs to be addressed, as well as value chains such as batteries, hydrogen, recharging points and software.