Antony Sheriff, managing director of supercar manufacturer McLaren Automotive, says challenging legislation limiting cars' CO2 emissions 'is vital', providing it is 'sensible and pragmatic'.
In a speech titled 'The Golden Age of Green' at the What Car? Green Awards, Sheriff said: 'Do we really need legislation? Absolutely, so long as it is done in a way that promotes innovation, rather than just adds costs, or stifles small, nimble, car companies in favour of the behemoths that can soak up CO2.
'Challenging, realistic and pragmatic legislation is vital. If it is, then the best engineers and designers will benefit.'
Sales of the McLaren's MP4-12C supercar begin next spring. It's a mid-engined, scissor-door two-seat rival for the Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Gallardo.
It's built around an 80kg, one-piece carbonfibre passenger compartment called a monocell, which keeps car's weight down, therefore making it more efficient. Sheriff insists this kind of innovation will trickle down to mainstream cars in the future.
'There are long-term benefits of innovation in the performance sector we fully expect that many of the leading-edge technologies found on the 12C will cascade down to ever less expensive cars as the technology matures.
'But without cars like the 12C, these technologies would never find a foothold. They would be discarded as too expensive. Our revolutionary carbon monocell is a perfect example. It makes the car lightweight and therefore more efficient. It makes the car extraordinarily strong and safe. It makes the car easy to repair and ensures the car's value is retained.'
McLaren says the MP4-12C has the lowest CO2 emissions in its sector. However, Sheriff says low CO2-emitting cars need to be desirable as well as eco-friendly if they are to be a commercial success.
'Low fuel consumption and low emissions must go hand-in-hand with driving or ownership enjoyment,' he said. 'Otherwise we will see exactly what happened recently in the USA. When fuel prices rose, so did sales of cars that favoured efficiency or low price over driving enjoyment. When fuel prices then went down, sales in those segments dropped heavily.'