Italy unveils nearly €1 billion plan for cleaner cars

Italy has announced a €950 million plan to boost its car industry, a move welcomed by carmaker Stellantis, which has accused Rome of a lack of commitment to electric vehicles, AFP reports.

Enterprise Minister Adolfo Urso said the new "car incentive plan" for 2024 included three goals - to scrap the most polluting car models, help low-income families replace their old cars and "boost production" in Italy.

"We absolutely have to change course compared to what has happened in recent years," Urso said at an auto industry roundtable, according to a statement.

He said the package was worth almost one billion euros.

Stellantis, created by a merger with France's Peugeot-Citroen and Fiat-Chrysler in 2021 and including Italian brands Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Lancia, has already pledged to produce one million cars in Italy by 2030.

But Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni earlier this month criticised the group, saying some of the decisions it had taken were "far from Italian interests".

In 2022, Stellantis produced about 685,000 cars in Italy, slightly more than the 678,000 cars produced by the group in France.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares hit back in an interview published earlier on Thursday, saying there was "open opposition to electric motors" in Italy.

The group's head of corporate affairs in Italy, Davide Mele, who attended the roundtable, welcomed Urso's statement.

They fear that any trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur will further drive down the prices of their products and increase competition from exporting countries that are not bound by the EU's strict and costly environmental laws.

"Today we have reached a new stage to have the necessary tools to support a market that for too long has failed to take the right path in the energy transition, leaving Italy behind in the European development of four-wheel electrification," he said.

"Now we can all stand at the starting line, harnessing our collective energy and skills to achieve the best result."

He reiterated "once again our strong commitment to the country" by reiterating the one million car pledge.

But he said this was dependent on certain conditions, including "the long-term continuation of adequate incentives for the sale of electric vehicles" and the development of a charging network.

Von der Leyen insists the European Union is aware of these concerns.

"Of course we have to protect the legitimate interests of farmers in our trade negotiations, in particular in ensuring a level playing field in terms of standards when we have trade agreements," she said. / BGNES