Ford could restrict sales of petrol models in favour of EVs

Punitive fines means car makers must sell more EVs – but sales are slower than expected, prompting Ford to consider action...

Ford Mustang Mach-E front cornering

New-car buyers could find it harder to buy petrol or diesel-powered cars, after Ford’s European boss said the firm was prepared to restrict sales to hit the UK’s zero-emissions sales targets.

Speaking at the FT’s Future of the Car Summit yesterday, Martin Sander said Ford may row back on its plans to sell only electric vehicles in Europe by 2030 because sales were “below expectations,” making EU targets “irrelevant”.

Sander said weak electric car sales in the UK could mean reallocating Ford’s quota of petrol and diesel-powered models to other countries, according to the FT. This, in effect, would boost its percentage of EV sales. 

Currently, Ford has only the Mustang Mach-E and E-Transit van in its EV range, although its new Explorer SUV is available to order and deliveries are expected this summer. An electric Ford Puma, to be named Gen-E, will be unveiled later this year.

Ford Explorer charging home wallbox

The UK’s Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate means 22% of new cars sold must be zero-emission, but EVs have accounted for just 17% of new vehicle sales so far in 2024. The percentage of EV sales must increase each year to 100% in 2035, or car makers will face a £15,000 fine for every vehicle that misses the target.

Sander was reported as saying: “We can’t push EVs into the market against demand. We’re not going to pay penalties. We are not going to sell EVs at huge losses just to buy compliance. The only alternative is to take our shipments of [petrol and diesel-powered] vehicles to the UK down and sell these vehicles somewhere else. 

“I don’t know if consumers in the UK would like seeing [engine vehicle] prices going up.” 

However, at the same FT conference, UK transport decarbonisation minister Anthony Browne said he didn’t expect car makers to end up paying the fines because the UK EV market was still in relative infancy, and that cheaper electric cars from Chinese brands would help stoke the market.

The changing rules have caused concern among several car makers, although Ford is the first to moot holding back petrol and diesel models to avoid the punitive fines. Some manufacturers haven’t ruled out pre-registering EVs to increase their percentage share of such cars. Other manufacturers insist that they will hit the targets.

However, Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Stellantis, the world’s third largest car manufacturer and the owner of brands including Citroen, Fiat and Vauxhall, recently branded the UK’s approach as “terrible,” could jeopardise car makers’ futures by selling at a loss.

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