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Air quality on SMMT agenda as diesel sales top 50%

Britain’s car manufacturers today (30 June) confirmed that new car emissions and air quality remain key challenges for the future.

The comments come as the industry reported sales of diesel cars “as pushing back up to over 50%” in 2014 with registrations of “alternatively-fuelled vehicles” taking a 2.1% share of the market.

Diesel cars were the best sellers in 2014

Diesel cars were the best sellers in 2014

The air quality challenge comes as the sector reported that there are now 11.8 million diesel cars in use. And, the number of cars overall in use – the has grown by 18.8% since 2000 with a 2.3% increase in 2014 to a total of 37.1 million cars in use.

Writing in the annual Sustainability Report of the industry’s trade body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, chief executive Mike Hawes warned that the industry cannot rest on its laurels, despite new vehicles bringing enhanced air quality standards.

Mr Hawes also commented on the new vehicles link to air quality: “The market for new vehicles rose strongly in 2014 and for cars returned to above pre-recession levels for the first time. Those new vehicles are also delivering enhanced fuel efficiency, air quality standards, safety and desirability to the consumer.”

And, the chief executive said that the industry is “keenly aware of megatrends in the wider world” including “population growth and with it impacts on scarce resource, rises in wealth and urbanisation and therefore, particular vehicle choices and constraints on the road networks. Technology will be a key enabler to choices in vehicle type.”

Lower CO2

The Sustainability Report said that “the automotive sector once again delivered lower CO2 emitting models, which helped average new car CO2 emissions fall to a record low of 124.6g/km in 2014. This was 2.9% lower than in 2013 and 31.2% down on 2000. It was also 4.2% below the 130g/km pan-EU 2015 target.”

At a national level, road transport, says the study, accounts for 30.8% of all NOx emissions and 23.2% of particulates (PM2.5) with cars 22.0% and 5.7% respectively.

But, the SMMT appears to almost consider that there can be problems at local level. It says: “At a local level road transport emissions may be a larger proportion, especially in congested urban areas.

The SMMT report also highlights the importance of the UK automotive industry to the economy with turnover hitting an all-time high of £69.5 billion in 2014. And, there has been more investment in high tech efficient manufacturing processes, which had led to productivity gains.

The study notes: “In each of the five years to 2014, an average of 11.5 vehicles were produced for every person employed in the industry, compared with 9.3 vehicles for the period from 2005 to 2009.”

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