UK nixes incentive grants for "green" cars

In a surprising move earlier this week, the British Department for Transport killed plans to offer car buyers cash grants valued from £300 to £1,000 towards the purchase of low-emissions vehicles. Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman  told the House of Commons that the money set aside for the program wouldn't put enough qualifying vehicles on the road to make a meaningful difference in overall carbon emissions. Instead, the funds will be used for an advertising campaign aimed at British drivers and programs to help fleet operators become more fuel-efficient.
It should be noted that in his statement, Ladyman reported that despite the absence of any sort of incentive program over the last 18 months, low-carbon car sales levels remained stable. That's good, to be sure, but if the point is to increase the number of such cars on the road, it's not good enough. It'll be interesting to see what the trend looks like a year from now if the government doesn't reverse course. One also wonders if this will have a distinct negative effect on UK hybrid sales, since they carry heftier price tags and would likely have been eligible for the biggest grant payouts. For many shoppers, the grants could have been the deciding factor that swayed those who like the idea of owning a hybrid, but are put off by the premium cost.

Not surprisingly, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is upset, saying that the move contradicts government claims that it is determined to reduce carbon emissions. For its part, Honda UK released a statement conveying its disappointment and expressing concerns that buyers would be less likely to choose cleaner cars without the grants. It also asserted, however, that the ongoing development of hybrid and fuel cell vehicles will continue exactly as planned. If and when the government relents and launches an incentive program, the automaker will be ready.

[Sources: The Independent, Honda UK]

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