Home Entertainment Thermal engines: Thierry Breton recommends keeping them

Thermal engines: Thierry Breton recommends keeping them


VSt is a stone in the European pond where we take for granted the cessation of any launch of new thermal engine models from 2035. Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market and, as such, very qualified to guide the industrial strategies, contrary to the current doxa, urged European car manufacturers to continue to produce them beyond this limit.

The pretext is that they will be permanently necessary for exports to countries on other continents that will not put such a straitjacket on their future mobility programme. And Thierry Breton to justify himself by explaining that these significant markets are likely to remain faithful to these proven engines and less at the mercy of a charging station not found in a developing country.

All of this is something that is regularly underlined in these columns, but Thierry Breton, as part of a trip to Italy where he met the president of Stellantis, John Elkann, seems to be stepping aside. To support his reasoning, he pointed out that the electric market share would be limited to 12% of new car sales in Africa around 2030, and 40% in the United States or India. A forecast without a doubt very optimistic with regard to Africa and India.

“I encourage the entire automotive ecosystem, on the one hand to ensure the electric transition in order to be ready for 2035 (in the EU), but also to continue to export thermal or hybrid vehicles to the countries who will still need it for many years or decades,” he explained. And to admit to several players in the Italian automobile industry, wanting “the large groups to understand their responsibilities well and that they continue to manufacture heat engines in Europe for the rest of the world, rather than suddenly relocating for reasons that would not be understandable”.

In the Europe bubble

So that’s the crux of the problem and Europe’s great fear now, that of finding itself isolated in this all-electric policy without a real market for conquest outside its borders. In countries that are more flexible with regard to fossil fuels, there is therefore a considerable market from which European manufacturers, forced to specialize in batteries, would stay away. There is therefore no question of ceasing the manufacture of heat engines but, in the mind of the European commissioner, it must be on the old continent.

However, the very principle of the automotive industry is to produce where it sells. It is therefore irrelevant to produce these thermal engines on European soil when none of them will have the right to drive there. The transfer of the manufacturing lines of these engines to the territories that will use them is highly strategic and this is what saddens Thierry Breton. However, European manufacturers have repeatedly warned about the social impact of the green transition, fearing that it will lead to the closure of factories and the destruction of jobs.

Difficult, therefore, to run several projects at the same time, Brussels remaining clinging to its objective of reducing CO2 emissions from new cars in the European Union to zero from 2035. With an intermediate stage dreaded by manufacturers which is the definition, by the summer, of the future Euro 7 standard which must apply from 2025. Thierry Breton believes that this extremely strict standard can then constitute an advantage for manufacturers who comply with it. Doubtful if, as some fear, Europe locks itself in a bubble that the other continents will circumvent carefully.

Another hypothesis is that, in the event of refusal by the market of the diktat of Brussels, keeping thermal engines would make it possible to diplomatically instil a minor proportion of “old-fashioned” cars to provide a less brutal transition to electric. But switching from one type of engine to another on the same car is industrially irrelevant.