French MPs propose one-off 'tax' on heavy new vehicles

Norway-style payment would be imposed on vehicles weighing more than 1,300kg if it becomes law

A group of French MPs has proposed plans a on-off tax on new vehicles based on their weight in what is being seen as a move on less environmentally friendly vehicles such as 4x4s and SUVs.

The Sustainable Development Committee of the National Assembly tabled an amendment to the 2020 budget review to introduce the additional payment on vehicles weighing more than 1,300kg, similar to one-off payments on new vehicles sold in Norway.

The amendment is very unlikely to make it into the final bill - but it has reportedly already sparked concern among manufacturers.

It is based on the observation that the automotive market has shifted in recent years towards increasingly heavy vehicles - SUV models accounted for more than a third of new car sales in 2018. According to France Stratégie published at the beginning of the summer, this inflation in vehicle weight undermines the progress made in the CO2 efficiency of engines.

The Norway-style amendment proposes to introduce a penalty for all models weighing more than 1,300kg - or 1,700kg in the case of all-electric vehicles to account for battery weight. It also includes provision for families with three or more children, who may need larger, and therefore heavier, vehicles.

The additional cost of an Audi A3 for a customer without children would be €750, rising to €3,000 for a BMW X2. The maximum amount, for the heaviest vehicles, would be €10,000. It would affect cars with heavy hybrid engines, too.

Car manufacturers have come out strongly in opposition to the plans. "No impact study has been carried out," said François Roudier, director of communication for the French Automobile Manufacturers' Committee.

He added that the additional cost would prompt customers to delay buying a newer, greener car, and put extra pressure on an already challenging market.

Matthieu Orphelin, one of the MPs who supports this amendment, is aware of this. "But today, the existing 'bonus-malus' on CO2 is not effective enough," he said. "It is essential to open the debate on taking into account the weight of the vehicle, even if this is not done as early as 2020."

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