Spain needs to “wake up” and follow other European nations in giving more incentives for electric cars, the head of Volkswagen’s Spanish brand SEAT stated on Wednesday.
The comments from interim chairman Carsten Isensee came as SEAT declared a step up in investment to 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) for 2020-2025 and said it was planning to build electric cars in Spain – if the government did more to help.
Automakers are increasing production of battery-powered vehicles to try to meet stricter European emissions regulations, but the hefty costs involved have come just as demand for cars has been impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
Several governments have introduced aid packages for the sector, often including incentives to purchase electric vehicles.
“Countries like Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, and France are much more advanced in the willingness to prepare their countries in line with the Paris agreement to substantially reduce the CO2 footprint,” Isensee informed Reuters.
Spain’s Socialist-led government declared on June 15 a 3.7 billion euro aid package for the auto industry. It involved a 250 million euro scheme to encourage drivers to trade in older cars for new low-emission and electric vehicles.
Isensee stated the help was a “step in the right direction”, but not sufficient. He said there was practically no electric charging network and more incentives were required as the average Spanish car is 13 years old, indicating weak purchasing power.
He stated a public-private collaboration was required to have more electric vehicles in the next three years, including companies such as wind power producer Iberdrola.
SEAT’s latest investment plan compares with the 3.3 billion euros ($3.74 billion) it spent in 2016-2020. It includes new electric vehicles after the first one introduced last year.
SEAT is aiming to make electric vehicles at its main Martorell plant, outside Barcelona, from in 2025, but this will depend on government support and other factors, Isensee stated.
He added SEAT’s second quarter would be worse than the first quarter, when it made a 48 million euros loss because of the coronavirus crisis but was confident the company would make a recovery.
While 2020 production would be well down in 2019 because of the factory closures during the coronavirus lockdown, there were no plans to decrease the workforce, he said.
He also said that SEAT was not interested in the Barcelona plants that Nissan Motors aims to close.
After record sales in the last year, SEAT had a turbulent start to the year as Luca de Meo stepped down as chairman in January, later becoming Renault’s CEO.