PARIS --The European Commission's strategy to phase out combustion engines in favor of EVs is a political choice that carries environmental and social risks, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said in an interview with European newspapers.
Since merging Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot-maker PSA Group, Tavares has mapped out a 30 billion euro (US$34 billion) electrification plan that helped Stellantis shares surge more than 60 per cent in their first year.
"What is clear is that electrification is a technology chosen by politicians, not by industry," he said in a joint interview with France's Les Echos, Handelsblatt, Corriere della Sera and El Mundo.
He added there were cheaper and faster ways of reducing carbon emissions.
"Given the current European energy mix, an electric car needs to drive 70,000 kilometres (44,000 miles) to compensate for the carbon footprint of manufacturing the battery and to start catching up with a light hybrid vehicle, which costs half as much as an EV," he said.
He also said a ban on internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 in Europe means carmakers need to start transforming their plants and supply chains quickly. Canada has implemented "a mandatory target" that by 2035 all new light-duty vehicles sold must be zero-emissions. It's not a ban or law, but a target.
"The brutality of this change creates social risk," he said.
In a detailed interview which touched on the various challenges Stellantis is facing, Tavares also nuanced his promise not to shut down plants in Europe.
"I generally hold on to the promises I make, but we also need to remain competitive," he said, citing in particular production costs in Italy which were "significantly higher, sometimes the double of those at plants in other European countries," mainly due to "exorbitant" energy prices.
Pointing to Rome, where the government is working to bring down industrial costs, he said: "It takes some time for the measures to be implemented. We will discuss this again at the end of 2022."
Stellantis will announce a new long-term strategic plan on March 1.