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Frankfurt Motor Show 2019: Climate change campaigners call for SUV ban

09 September 2019 Ian Fletcher

(Excerpt)

Campaigners against climate change are calling for a ban on sport utility vehicles (SUVs) to help reduce emissions, reports Reuters. A consortium including Greenpeace and Deutsche Umwelthilfe called 'Exit' made the call for automakers to end the development of large and heavy cars powered by ICEs at a press conference on the eve of the Frankfurt Motor Show (Germany). Exit said, "As long as SUVs rather than small electric vehicles dominate automotive transport, cars will remain the problem child for us climate activists." However, in a debate with the leader of a coalition of climate activists known as the 'Sand in the Gearbox', Volkswagen (VW) Group CEO Herbert Diess said that the automaker was in the business of providing individual mobility and highlighted that some of its earlier efforts to provide small zero-emission cars had been unsuccessful. He added that it is ultimately the customer that makes the market and that "SUVs are what the customer wants". The senior executive said that regulators have it in their power to incentivise consumer buying behaviour, but he rejected a call for an outright ban on cars or certain types of vehicle. He also noted that switching to renewable forms of energy and cutting dependence on coal-fired power stations was another way of meeting climate goals.

Significance: As highlighted by Diess, there is no clear answer to the calls made by these activists. Up until around a decade and half ago, the SUV category in Europe was a relatively niche category until consumer interest shifted in that direction. Ironically, during this time, emissions seen by such vehicles have fallen significantly due to many now being based on the same architectures as conventional passenger-car types. Many automakers are also hoping that the crossover and SUV trend will help to widen the interest in their electrified vehicles, particularly given that higher roofs of such vehicles help to make battery packaging much easier. It is likely that until in some way it is made too onerous to own such vehicles, customers who have the means will continue to buy these and other similar vehicles.


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