By on July 1, 2011

After Greenpeace attacked Volkswagen for opposing proposed increases in the EU’s emissions regulation, Ford is joining the opposition to tough EU proposals. Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell railed against the EU’s recent White Paper On The Future Of Transport [PDF here], which calls for (among other things):

-”A higher share of travel by collective transport, combined with minimum service obligations”
-”The use of smaller, lighter and more specialised road passenger vehicles”
-”Road pricing and the removal of distortions in taxation [to] also assist in encouraging the use of public transport and the gradual introduction of alternative propulsion”
-All in the pursuit of the goal: “Halve the use of ‘conventionally-fuelled’ cars in urban transport by 2030; phase them out in cities by 2050; achieve essentially CO2-free city logistics in major urban centres by 203″

Now what about that plan might worry an auto executive?

Automotive News Europe [sub] hosted the conference at which Odell lashed out against what he called a “hugely disappointing document,” and report:

Odell said the EU had a critical role to play in developing transport strategy and in setting future policy frameworks, but wanted proposals which covered any collateral damage to the region’s automakers that they could cause.

The current proposals, which include a general shift from road to rail and shipping by 2025, Odell says is “unrealistic and one-sided”. “Such radical proposals require further discussion and reflection, and they need to respect the principles of technical neutrality and freedom of consumer choice,” he said.

He added the EU proposals could discourage essential research and development projects in Europe, and significantly reduce employment in the region.

“We have to consider transport policy not only as part of a wider industrial policy, but also in its effects on energy policy,” he said.

By US standards, the document’s idealistic goals are almost laughable. But, as we recently discussed, Europe and the US have very different perspectives on cars and cities. Still, Odell effectively argues that Europe’s overcapacity-plagued auto industry is fragile enough to sustain serious damage if principles allow regulators in Brussels to lose sight of reality. And, based on another of the White Paper’s goals, at least a few have:

By 2050, move close to zero fatalities in road transport. In line with this goal, the EU aims at halving road casualties by 2020. Make sure that the EU is a world leader in safety and security of transport in all modes of transport.

Again, a noble-sounding goal… but practical? What will Europeans be asked to pay for a guarantee of future accident- and idiot-proof roads? Taxes, certainly, but what about privacy? And, as Odell points out, where is consumer choice in any of this? Given the higher rate of fatalities among motorcycle riders, will motorcycles be made illegal just as high-horsepower cars are slowly but surely being made ever less attainable? The answer, of course, is “yes”… which, according to the document, is also where consumer choice comes in.

Price signals play a crucial role in many decisions that have long-lasting effects on the transport system. Transport charges and taxes must be restructured in the direction of wider application of the ‘polluter-pays’ and ‘user-pays’ principle. They should underpin transport’s role in promoting European competitiveness and cohesion objectives, while the overall burden for the sector should reflect the total costs of transport including infrastructure and external costs. Wider socioeconomic benefits and positive externalities justify some level of public funding, but in the future, transport users are likely to pay for a higher proportion of the costs than today. It is important that correct and consistent monetary incentives are given to users, operators and investors.

And here’s where I start to agree with the document: I’m all for pricing externalities into the price of oil, and if I lived on a small, crowded continent like Europe, I’d probably be more inclined to support congestion pricing as well. What I’m not so fond of is the “here is your future, enjoy the hell out of it” tone that comes through in so much of the White Paper, in passages like this one:

More resource-efficient vehicles and cleaner fuels are unlikely to achieve on their own the necessary cuts in emissions and they would not solve the problem of congestion. They need to be accompanied by the consolidation of large volumes for transfers over long distances. This implies greater use of buses and coaches, rail and air transport for passengers and, for freight, multimodal solutions relying on waterborne and rail modes for long-hauls.

If you’re pricing externalities into oil, why won’t the rest of these problems work themselves out? The auto industry groans and shrugs its shoulders when emissions regulations come out, but when government start calling, in effect, for the end of an industry, you’re going to hear more anger from people like Odell. And why not? As he points out

Let us all remember that the auto industry is one of the world’s great growth industries. It’s estimated the annual global vehicle market will be around 95 to 100 million units a year by mid-decade, and about 112 million vehicles by 2020. That’s 112 million vehicles by 2020 that have to be designed, engineered and built somewhere in the world – So why not here in Europe?

Meanwhile, here’s something else to consider: with heavy Gulf State investment in the European auto industry, why wouldn’t Europe’s automakers will continue to fight over the EU’s grand vision of the future of transport?

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35 Comments on “Ford Fires Back Against Europe’s “War On Cars”...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    If you’re pricing externalities into oil, why won’t the rest of these problems work themselves out?
    +1 – the EU can try and legislate for 2050 but the member states still have power and there will be push back from the public on this once it really starts to bite (whether that is too late is unknown).

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I wouldn’t bet the ranch on the EU being around in 2050. How long will industrious productive nations like Germany put up with being forced to subsidize and bail out the siesta culture of the Med? Eventually Europeans may decide they’ve had enough of dictatorship by unelected elitist bureaucrats in Brussels answerable to nobody, spouting off about “collective” transport while their welfare state economy collapses.

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      It figures that they use pretty sound economic policies only when it is convenient for them. Usually the people attracted to extreme environmental groups like Greenpeace want policies that are really bad for economic growth, with little to offset any desirable social goals.

      I don’t know if the U.S. will be in sound shape in 2050, either. It has a better chance of climbing out of it’s indebtedness and dealing with it’s massive future pension burdens (and the loss of so many workers in the prime of their careers), but the way things are still going, it’s either going to be affected by unsustainable debt or be mostly owned by foreigners (also including oil exporters to the States).

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Looking at an industrial map it’s obvious that the “have” nations are the auto manufacturers. Anybody that actively participates in the industry beside just buying them is better off than those that don’t. That’s why all governments subsidize getting new plants in.

    Anything that jeopordizes that will fail. Brussels can make all the demands it wants but if it will cause grief for the industry, it will find itself either replaced or marginallized. California had better watch too.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    “By US standards, the document’s idealistic goals are almost laughable.”

    Not laughable by everyone’s standards… our totalitarians and statists are not different than Europe’s own.

    ”A higher share of travel by collective transport, combined with minimum service obligations”

    “Collective”… at least they’re honest statists. All of this will be operated by the public sector labor unions which are the backbone of the Left.

    “Transport charges and taxes must be restructured in the direction of wider application of the ‘polluter-pays’… achieve essentially CO2-free city logistics in major urban centres…”

    The environmental movement is where the Communists went after the Berlin Wall fell. Once they can control how you get to work, they can control where you live, what you live in, and your right to live there. Let’s always remember what happens to people in China who get out of line… for example, they suddenly discover their kids can’t go to school. No one will be getting uppity when their day-to-day existence depends on a Eurocommisar.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    Collectivists are always suprised when their grand schemes don’t work and always blame someone or something other than themselves. They refuse to learn from history that collectivism always fails, they think that they are smarter than anyone who came before and they can make it work this time.

  • avatar
    dreadnought

    The auto companies were fools to ever go along with any of these “green Initiatives” to begin with. The old Marxist line about the last capitalist could be transformed into a Green line about the last car manufacturer.

    You may laugh and say these”collectivist” schemes won’t work, and will ultimately be rejected. The problem is: the collectivists don’t care if they don’t work, they will force them through: society’s economic health, and your lifestyle, be damned.

    Yeah, it will fall apart eventually, but how long will it take and what will you be left with? Re: Soviet Union.

    I have been involved in government transportation planning in the US for 25 years. The anti-auto crowd, always a strong force in my profession, has now become predominant, and they are an insidious force.

    They are frustrated because years of their initiatves with loaded-language names (“traffic calming”, “road diets”, “smart growth”, ad nauseum), as well immeasurable amounts of agit-prop have failed to make a dent in the public’s preference for personal motor vehicles, in the US, or anywhere else.

    So the last step left is coercion. Of which this EU White Paper is an excellent example.

    The thing that kills me, as a planner in the US, is how motorists are always left out of the process. Whenever a plan or a major project is discussed, public input is always sought from bus riders, bicycle advocates, etc, but the motorists are never singled out for any kind of attention, not only in the largest urban areas, but everywhere. Yet they make up, by far, the largest segment of the market in every metro area in the US, large and small (including NYC).

    As far as the “externalities” being priced into oil transactions: Petroleum is by far the least subsidized form of energy.

    If you are a motorist who appreciates the benefits of the personal vehicle, the freedom and the pleasure that it provides, I would urge you to get involved in the transportation planning process at every level: local, State, Federal. Get involved-demand to be a part of the process. Otherwise your freedom WILL be taken away, and you will be surprised at how fast it will happen.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I’d rather have a fuel-effiecient and safe car than live in a world where cars are banned because they pollute and kill too many people.
    That said, as long as I can I will still keep my old cardboard-box streetracer, and as far as I live on the countryside, outside the EU I hope I’m safe for now.
    Most restrictions only apply to those who for some weird (to me) reason like to live in cities, and who for some weird (again to me) reason wants a brand new car…

    • 0 avatar
      Bryce

      Ive got enough cars now and if they stop making cars tomorow I wont care there are plenty around alreasy look how Cuba ept cars going the world supply of parts is immense my turbo diesel is easy to repair and should last the other car is past 50 and the parts still exist for it so it would outlive me if maintained properly but its slow an noisy, Dont ban cars but there really is no reson to build any more that are not sustainable and diesel can be grown not mined Im planning a diesel transplant for my oldie once a powertrain comes to light so my daughter can drive when Im gone.

  • avatar
    Rob

    The Europeans continue their 200 years of service to the United States by showing us what not to do.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    “just as high-horsepower cars are slowly but surely being made ever less attainable? ”

    What nonsense is this? Thirty years ago cars with more than 100 hp were the exception, now they are the norm.

  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    Eddie, halving road traffic deaths by 2020 isn’t as ridiculous as may sound.

    Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Spain, Luxembourg, Sweden, France and Slovenia all reached the previous European Commission target of a 50% reduction in road deaths between 2000 and 2010. Obviously having it again will be harder, but perhaps not as hard as you think.

    As the the other goals in the paper, it’s merely an opening position. Industry lobbists will water it down considerably.

  • avatar
    timlocke

    It is time to have a non-ethnic cleaning in NA and the EU. Get rid of all the “environmentalists”, greenies and general socialists. With luck this would reduce the worlds population enough so that we would not need to worry about climate and peak oil and could just live our lives and drive our cars in peace.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      This kind of hate-mongering has no place on a site like this, or any site for that matter. These kinds of threats are nothing short of barbaric and are borderline criminal.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      I come to this site because there are a lot of very smart and well-informed people here who have a lot of interesting things to say. The diverse backgrounds and various levels of experience, learning and expertise is generally quite impressive, and I actually learn a lot by reading though many people’s posts.

      This kind of hate-filled, violence-promoting crap on the other hand is poisonous, destructive, and extremely malicious. Please stop.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Disagreeing with those whose views differ from you is democratic.

      Advocating for their elimination? That sounds like a Third World dictatorship’s modus operandi.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Yeah, Tim might be pushing the envelope a bit with that whole mass murder thing.

        I assumed that he was joking. No one could possibly be that dim and be serious…right?

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      That would certainly go a long way toward acheiving “essentially CO2-free city logistics in major urban centres by 2030.” Fewer animals respirating.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It is time to have a non-ethnic cleaning in NA and the EU

      So, by that you mean we should all get together, grab some soap and scrub brushes, and Kumbaya while we scrub each other regardless of race or creed?

  • avatar
    timlocke

    I am indeed joking. This is not to say that a bit less fearmongering by the people/organisations and governments that we are all going to die unless we give up our cars wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    @Philosophil No hatemongering here. I don’t HATE any of these people I just wish they would go away or just shut up. You are using the usual arguments that have been used against the right wing by the left for many years. If you like it/approve of it then it is good, liberal and progressive. If you disagree with it then it is bigoted, anti-Palestinian, racist, hateful etc.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    -”Road pricing and the removal of distortions in taxation [to] also assist in encouraging the use of public transport and the gradual introduction of alternative propulsion”

    Really? The only reason public transport survives is the heavy subsidizing of public transport. You can say that the removal of “external costs” from the price of oil artificially lower its price and encourage wasteful practices, but those “artificially” low prices help public transport 2-fold. They actually pay less due to the lack of artificially inflated prices via taxes, and they receive subsidies from those taxes that the rest of us pay. Yet, public transport still is unprofitable and undesireable to a majority of people. The solution? Make personal transportation even more undesireable and further increase subsidies for public transportation to make it “fair.” I guess that I’m just a unthinking troglodite who can’t envision the Utopian future that my smarter brothers want to bring me and my kind.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Yet, public transport still is unprofitable and undesireable to a majority of people.

      My car doesn’t pay me a dividend check every month.

      I pay to fuel it.

      I pay to maintain it.

      I pay to insure it.

      I pay (indirectly) to park it in a sheltered space.

      I pay (indirectly) for its depreciation.

      And when someone hits it, I pay to get the metal bent back into shape.

      Meanwhile, the fuel taxes that we pay don’t completely fund the cost of road construction and maintenance; much of the cost of our highways is paid from the general fund.

      Transportation is an expense. Its value come from the benefits that we get, but the transportation itself costs money. It makes no sense to expect a commuter train to produce a profit, any more than you’d expect your car to generate a profit. To demand a profit from one form of transportation but not the other is just a flagrant double standard.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Pch you win the unofficial TTAC ‘Comment of the Week’ award.

        Great job! You now have an extra 10 seconds of drinking time at the water fountain. Please remember not to spit.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        But spitting gives me pleasure. And it’s an externality that costs me nothing, just so long as I’m the only one who is doing the spitting.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        @Pch101 Surely it is possible to generate profit from transportation viewed as a service (e.g., moving people quickly, safely, or some other effective measure from place to place). Taxis, rental agencies, airlines, bush pilots, etc. all seem to generate profit (relatively speaking) from transportation. Am I missing something, or did you perhaps get a little too caught-up-in the debate here, as it were?

  • avatar
    obruni

    it is impossible to idiot proof roads in Europe. It would be far easier to just ban the French and Belgians from driving.

    especially those crazy scooter drivers. ugh

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Taxis, rental agencies, airlines, bush pilots, etc. all seem to generate profit (relatively speaking) from transportation. Am I missing something

    They get the use of subsidized roads, airports and other public services, which allows them to pass some of their expenses to the government. They also produce externalities, which by definition are paid for by others but themselves.

    And even with the subsidies, airlines are generally huge money losers. (Richard Branson is fond of saying “the easiest way to become a millionaire is to start out a billionaire, then go into the airline business.”) Moving the average person from A to B is not particularly lucrative most of the time.

    In any case, Lumburgh is talking about the costs borne by the public, i.e. that the taxpayer has to cover expenses that are not covered by the fares. My point is that as a user of transportation, transportation is an expense. I’m paying for my car, I’m paying for mass transit (which takes traffic off the road that makes it easier for me to use my car), I’m paying to subsidize the airport, I’m paying for highways that effectively subsidize the cost of heavy trucks destroying the highways, etc., etc. It’s a cost center, but we get the benefit of mobility that makes it worth paying for.

    The street in front of my house doesn’t produce a profit. Yet even though it is a net money loser, I’m glad to have a street to use. I’m sure that Lumbergh doesn’t have any expectations for the pavement in front of his house to pay for itself, any more than he expects his car to pay for itself. Yet he complains about a train that doesn’t produce cash flow, even though his preferred alternatives don’t generate money, either. That double standard doesn’t make any sense. But for him, it isn’t really about the actual expense, but about paying for something that he personally dislikes.


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