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Stellantis boss: potential for 'social unrest' because of unaffordable EVs

Carlos Tavares wants to protect European carmakers with tariffs on Chinese EVs

Published: 19 Oct 2022

There was a stark warning about the future of the car industry in Europe and Britain this week from Carlos Tavares, boss of the Stellantis Group that includes Peugeot, Citroen, Alfa, Fiat, and Jeep.

His concern is the speed of legislation that mandates electric-car sales before the prices have fallen or the infrastructure is available. "Freedom of mobility is going backwards because people can't afford EVs. There is the potential for social unrest," he tells Top Gear.

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His theory is that Chinese-owned companies are subsidising sales here at the moment, which is why they are making the most affordable electric cars. "The Chinese industry might be making cars at a loss. And then they will raise prices after the European carmakers go out of business."

He says he wants subsidies, or protection from Chinese competition via tariffs, "The same as the barriers that there are on the sale of European cars in China." That's not unique. Many bosses in many industries put their hands out for subsidy and protection. He pleads this is the only way to stop widespread job losses in European car factories.

Tariffs would let the European industry build up a base of raw materials supply, cell and battery manufacture as well as car manufacture. But once that "brutal transition period" to EV sales is over in 2025, he says the protectionist measures could taper off because the European industry will have established electric manufacturing.

He says he doesn't like trade barriers and is fundamentally in favour of globalisation. "Fragmentation is war and selfishness. Instead we want collaboration."

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If trade barriers don't go up, he has another solution. CO2 can be cut by allowing cheaper small combustion or hybrid cars to be sold new for a few more years. "The politicians decided dogmatically. They decided voters want EVs. We don't have regulations that are technology-neutral." In other words, they wanted to cut CO2 and decided EVs are the way to do it, rather than just asking for the CO2 cut and letting the car makers figure out the best way.

"Still, we will compete within that frame. We will have 30 EVs on sale. It's Darwinian. Only the best will survive."

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