U.K. carmakers press Boris Johnson to fund pledge to end gasoline era

U.K. automakers pressed their case for government funding to meet a new goal of killing off combustion cars by 2035, even as demand for electric models surged.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move announced Tuesday to end sales of gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles five years earlier than planned must come with a package of fiscal incentives, policies and investment, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said Wednesday.

The trade group spoke out for a second day after fresh data showed a 7.3 percent drop in the overall auto market in January. The decline extends a three-year slump that coincides with the 2016 Brexit vote, which sowed consumer uncertainty, and fewer diesel purchases since new restrictions came into place.

“Consumer confidence is not returning to the market and will not be helped by government’s decision to add further confusion and instability by moving the goalposts,” SMMT chief Mike Hawes said in a statement.

Johnson’s new push includes the early eradication of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles that accounted for more than 13,000 purchases during January. Including a tripling of battery-only sales to 4,054 cars, alternative vehicles accounted for about 12 percent of the market during the month, the highest on record.

The SMMT is seeking the extension of a grant for plug-in models that’s due to expire next month, saying demand for lower-emissions vehicles always drops when incentives are pulled.

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