THE ban of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK has been put back to 2035 under new measures announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The announcement was part of a number of changes to the Government's net zero plans which the premier said were necessary so not to impose ‘unacceptable costs' on British people.
But the auto industry said the move brought confusion to the car market and must be backed up with incentives for motorists to go green.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders,said: "The automotive industry's commitment to a zero-emission new car and van market remains unchanged.
"Net Zero cannot be achieved without this sector's decarbonisation. The Prime Minister has confirmed that a mandate to compel the sale of EVs - the single biggest mechanism to deliver Net Zero - will be published shortly, starting in January 2024.
"Manufacturers will continue to put innovative new models on the market but consumers need encouragement to buy more than ever. Today's announcement must be backed up with a package of attractive incentives and measures to accelerate charging infrastructure to give consumers the confidence to switch. Carrots move markets faster than sticks."
And Ford UK's managing director Lisa Brankin said any relaxation of the 2030 deadline ran the risk of undermining the car industry.
She said: "Three years ago the government announced the UK's transition to electric new car and van sales from 2030. The auto industry is investing to meet that challenge.
"Ford has announced a global $50 billion commitment to electrification, launching nine electric vehicles by 2025. The range is supported by Â£430 million invested in Ford's UK development and manufacturing facilities, with further funding planned for the 2030 timeframe.
"We need the policy focus trained on bolstering the EV market in the short term and supporting consumers while headwinds are strong: infrastructure remainsimmature, tariffs loom and cost-of-living is high."
Stellantis, the parent group of several car brands including Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall, said there was now a need for all governments to provide clarity on environmental issues.
However, Lynn Calder, chief executive of off-road brand Ineos Automotive - owned by UK billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe - said the move to 2035 was more realistic for consumers to switch to zero emission vehicles.
She said: "2035 is a more realistic target for consumers to switch to net zero vehicles and will allow the industry to meet the challenge, but achieving this target is made harder by the current singular focus on EVs as thereisa real risk that that we will fail and that it will be more expensive for consumers,with the whole industry competing for finite resources such as the lithium crucial for batteries.
"EVs are an important part of the mix, butwe believebettingonly on one technologywill limit options and stifle innovation. There is a mix of solutions forthe widescaleenergytransition required to achieve net zero,and with cars it will be the same. We need support for other technologies such as hydrogen and alternative fuels inthe samewaythese alternatives arebeing supported by other countries.
"We will launch an all-electric 4X4 in 2026 but have also invested in the development of afuel cellhydrogen demonstrator version of the Grenadier which proves that the technology is capable. So, we need support from policy makers to help provide the infrastructure for the next generation of hydrogen vehicles as well as for EVs."
And Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said it was hard to understand the rationale for the Prime Minister's decision.
"What message does taking his foot off the gas in this way send to an auto industry that was confident of its ability to hit the 2030 deadline on the basis of a clear and consistent regulatory regime?" he said.
"Be they motorists or not, taxpayers might wonder how back-pedalling on the switch to electric cars can be consistent with the Government having put huge sums of public money on the table to support battery production."