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EU market commissioner encourages ICE vehicle exports as if global climate change doesn’t affect Europe

EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton is publicly urging automakers to consider continuing internal combustion engine vehicle production over fears of lost jobs and a future in which middle class consumers cannot afford EVs. Breton may want the EU to remain a “export force” in combustion vehicles, but will anyone still be interested in them as more and more countries set expiries in order to combat the vicious acceleration of global climate change?

While Thierry Breton does not speak for the entire EU commission, his recent comments are a bit discouraging to hear from an environmentalist sense, and his reasoning for such fears lacks substance. Just over a week ago, the EU Commission of which Breton is a key member of, signed an official ban on new combustion vehicle sales by 2035, solidifying a market shift that has long been debated and waffled over.

It is currently a task to find single location on Earth where you can’t notice some evidence of climate change – and carbon emissions from combustion vehicles have been identified as a massive contributor around the world.

Automakers around the world (in EU markets and beyond) have already begun following the lead of their respective governments and are vowing to go all-electric over the next 10-15 years with hopes of significantly reducing carbon emissions. So, why are we suddenly talking about more combustion all of a sudden?

As Internal Market Commissioner for the EU, Thierry Breton is merely doing his job and is worried about the future economy if it’s dominated by EV production, but what’s the sense in worrying about the economy if there isn’t a inhabitable planet for it to operate on?

EU market commissioner wants to push back 2035 deadline

In a recent interview with French outlet Les Echoes, the EU market commissioner shared an interesting view on the future of the automotive industry and fears things are moving too quickly. Per the interview:

I respect the fact that some are deciding to accelerate toward a 100 percent electric offer, but I also encourage manufacturers to continue to produce internal combustion cars, generate quality jobs and remain an export force.

Obviously Breton didn’t get to his position in the EU by accident, so we are not here to necessarily discredit his arguments about the affect mass-EV adoption will certainly have on the global economy. That being said, his fears feel a bit like they’ve been dipped in “FUD.” First, one could argue that EV production can create plenty of quality (albeit different) jobs as well.

These are jobs that can be assisted by AI and robotics that are less physically strenuous on employees. Breton went on to say that the transition to EVs could cost an industry that currently employs roughly 13 million people about 600,000 jobs. For perspective here, that is less than 5%. Any number of jobs lost should be taken seriously of course, but we’re not talking about a paradigm shift in the automotive work force by going electric. We will still need millions and millions of people to build them.

Breton’s argument about remaining an “export force” for ICE vehicles is a bit of a head scratcher as well. Aside from the EU – Breton’s own organization – major markets like North America and Asia have set similar end dates to combustion sales. So who’s buying these exports after 2035?

Breton’s solution is to push back the 2035 ban date to allow longer combustion production for those EU consumers who “will not be able to buy cars that cost 30,000 euros.” We’d imagine EVs will cost quite a bit less thirteen years from now, but Breton doesn’t necessarily see it that way.

He stated he is already planning a 2026 review thanks to a clause in the recently signed EU deal that he insisted on adding. From there, he can work on furthering his strategy to push the 2035 deadline back. Breton also shared plans to form a group that will include automakers that will meet regularly over the next four years to strategize.

Wonder if Toyota’s already signed up? Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has been another publicly vocal figure sharing uncertainty about the 2035 deadline and what it could do to the EU automotive market. Perhaps that company joins Breton’s group, despite recently vowing to go all-electric after stating, “the people have decided.”

We think the people have definitely decided that a 2035 ban on new combustion is the right thing to do, if not sooner. Let’s hope these skeptics begin to believe as well.

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Scooter Doll is a writer, designer and tech enthusiast born in Chicago and based on the West Coast. When he’s not offering the latest tech how tos or insights, he’s probably watching Chicago sports.
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