This nation is trying to shield supercars from combustion engine ban

Italy is in talks with the European Union on ways to shield supercar makers, including Ferrari NV and Lamborghini SpA, from the planned phase-out of combustion engine vehicles by 2035, according to a minister in Mario Draghi’s administration.

File photo used for representational purpose. 
File photo used for representational purpose. 

While the Italian government fully backs Europe’s commitment to cut emissions by phasing out the most-polluting engines, “in the gigantic cars market there is a niche, and there are ongoing discussions with the EU Commission" on how the new rules would apply to high-end carmakers that sell a much lower number of vehicles than mainstream producers, Roberto Cingolani, minister for ecological transition, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, Italy.

“Those cars need very special technology and they need batteries for the transition," he said. “One important step is that Italy gets autonomous in producing high performance batteries and that is why we are now launching the giga-factory program to install in Italy a very large scale production facility for batteries."

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The European Commission in July announced plans to phase out sales of new combustion-engine cars by 2035 as part of the region’s effort to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming. That timeline is particularly challenging for luxury-car makers that produce vehicles with powerful engines that emit above-average levels of pollution. Those carmakers have significantly lower sales that limit the economies of scale that can be gained from converting production plants. A spokesperson for the European Commission did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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The number of vehicles affected by an exemption would represent a fraction of a market that numbers in the millions, Cingolani, a former non-executive director of Ferrari, told Bloomberg. Ferrari sold around 9,100 vehicles in 2020, while Lamborghini sales numbered around 7,400.

“This is something we are discussing with other partners in Europe and I am convinced there will be not be a problem."

Electric Reluctance

Ferrari would be among the most iconic of the supercar makers to benefit from a possible exemption from the phase-out target. The company still does not produce a fully electric vehicle and has been slow to embrace electrification. A spokesman for Ferrari declined to comment on Cingolani’s comments.

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The Italian manufacturer will unveil its first vehicle that runs entirely on batteries in 2025, Chairman John Elkann said earlier this year. In contrast, Porsche’s fully electric Taycan has been on the road since 2019. Ferrari will share more details on its plans during a capital markets day next year. It will also begin sales of its first-ever SUV, the Purosangue, in 2022 -- years after Bentley’s Bentayga and Lamborghini’s Urus came to market.

Charting a course for Ferrari in the waning days of the internal combustion engine will be among the biggest priorities for Benedetto Vigna, who started as chief executive officer on Sept. 1. The former STMicroelectronics NV executive led the chipmaker’s division that supplies key sensors used in Apple Inc.’s iPhone and automakers’ navigation systems.

“This is a global policy problem. There is a clear awareness about the need of a transition toward the electric mobility. On a century scale transformation this is not a problem, " Cingolani said.

First Published Date: 05 Sep 2021, 09:30 AM IST
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