France Wants to Discourage Ownership of Diesel Cars, Automakers Protest

The French government has announced plans to gradually phase out the use of diesel fuel for passenger vehicles and will establish a system to identify the most polluting vehicles.

The plans were announced by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, much to the displeasure of French automakers Renault and PSA Peugeot-Citroën. The official said the government will launch a car identification system next year that will rank vehicles by the amount of pollution they emit. Based on this system, local authorities will be able to limit city access for the dirtiest cars.

“In France, we have long favoured the diesel engine. This was a mistake, and we will progressively undo that, intelligently and pragmatically,” Valls was quoted as saying by Reuters. The plans are daring from a political point of view, considering that about 80 percent of French motorists drive diesel-powered cars.

Valls said taxation should be changed so that citizens would orient towards more ecological choices. A first step is the 2015 state budget which includes measures to reduce the tax advantage of diesel fuel versus gas.

The government said it will raise the excise tax (TICPE) on diesel by 2 euro cents per liter, resulting in an additional €807 million in budget revenues in 2015. Other measures include a bonus of up to €10,000 for drivers scraping diesel-powered cars for EVs.

Obviously, French automakers are against the plans. PSA and Renault both said the tax increase on diesel fuel will not improve air quality, arguing that the tax does not differentiate between modern and older diesel engines. PSA also said the tax will hurt its competitiveness.

“Diesel is a key technology to reduce greenhouse gas and to fight against climate change. This tax measure will place France at a disadvantage compared with Germany,” a PSA spokeswoman told AutoNews Europe.

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