PARIS -- Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard has criticized a French government proposal to add a weight tax to new vehicles.
The proposal, which has been hotly debated in recent months, has not been fully detailed, but it would add a levy to vehicles weighing 1,800 kg (3,970 pounds) or more. It would most likely exempt electrified vehicles, including battery electrics and plug-in hybrids.
“The tax on weight is completely unnecessary,” Senard told the news service Agence France-Presse on Sunday. “Buyers want larger vehicles, and the customer is king. I don’t see why we should make customers feel guilty.”
Environmental groups had pushed the tax as a protest against surging SUV sales. The main proponent, the Citizens’ Climate Convention, called for the tax to start at 1,400 kg, with a penalty of 10 euros per kg over that figure.
The government had said in September that a weight tax was off the table for 2021, but the minister for ecological transition, Barbara Pompili said on Oct. 15 that it would indeed come into effect, after a compromise had been reached on emissions taxation.
France had already said it would raise taxes on vehicles based on emissions for 2021, by lowering the threshold at which a “malus” for new cars is triggered, and raising the ceiling for the highest-emissions vehicles to 50,000 euros. At the same time, the government is rolling back some incentives on zero- and ultra-low-emissions vehicles.
Senard said the new tax would only add to employment pressures on the auto industry, calling it a "collective failure."
"We want to preserve jobs in the automotive industry? Let's start by reducing taxation on mobility," he told AFP. "It's nice to talk about electric motors, but thousands of jobs were concentrated on internal combustion engines. We (the manufacturers) suddenly find ourselves in a situation where we have to resolve these social issues without having been able to anticipate them," he explained.
The final form of the weight tax will be subject to debate starting this week. As part of a reported compromise, the government will spread out the pain of the emissions “malus,” going from 138 grams per km of CO2 in 2020, to 133 g/km in 2021, 128 g/km in 2022 and 123 g/km in 2023. At the same time, the top penalty will increase by 10,000 euros a year until 2023 from the current 20,000 euro maximum.
Most taxes based on vehicle weight in Europe are on an annual basis rather than at registration. German road taxes include some weight limits, though most are based on engine displacement and emissions; Denmark has an annual weight duty for vehicles registered before 1997, as does Finland if emissions information is not available.