LONDON -- Britain's decision to delay a ban on new fossil fuel car sales may make little difference to the pace of a shift to electric vehicles, even though the news drew anger from automakers worried about supply chains and investment uncertainty.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain, who is expected to face a tough election in 2024, said the five-year delay to 2035 was not political and was about "doing what's right for the country."
Following polarized debate over emissions charges on older, more polluting vehicles, he said he was seeking to help those stung by the cost-of-living crisis and unable to afford expensive EVs.
Industry analysts, however, said Sunak above all had undermined investment at a time when British companies are fighting to attract investors to a relatively small market cut loose from the European Union following Brexit.
Announced in 2020, the 2030 ban was touted by Boris Johnson, the prime minister at the time, with whom Sunak has clashed, as a way to establish British global EV leadership. The U.K. goal was ahead of the 2035 ban in the European Union, where most British-made cars are sold.
"We should have been at 2035 from Day 1, but it moved because it's become part of a political debate," said Philip Nothard, U.K. insight and strategy director at car dealer services company Cox Automotive. "The timing sends the message that things can change again, making it difficult for companies to manage their investment strategies."