France to impose $22,240 pollution tax on SUVs and trucks

FILE – In this Nov. 26, 2014 file photo electric cars queue in the bus lane, left, on the main road into Oslo, Norway. In Norway some 30 percent of all new cars sport plug-in cables rather than gasoline tanks. France is taking aim at SUVs by raising a tax on heavier and more polluting vehicles. (Lise Aserud/NTB Scanpix via AP, File)

INTERNATIONAL – France is taking aim at SUVs by raising a tax on heavier and more polluting vehicles, a measure that comes on top of tough new European rules being phased in next year to lower car emissions.

Under a law adopted by parliament this week, cars emitting carbon dioxide above a certain threshold will be subject to a 20,000 euros ($22,240) penalty in 2020, higher than the existing 12,500 euros. At the same time, the government is considering reducing cash incentives for the purchase of electric cars.

The measures show policy makers are still finding their way on how best to back a shift to cleaner cars. Sport utility vehicles are among the most polluting because they are heavier and less fuel efficient. Yet they made up 30% of sales in France in the first 11 months of the year, according to Paris-based consultancy Inovev. While electric-car sales are growing quickly, they still make up a tiny proportion of the overall market.

France’s SUV levy comes as the European car industry prepares for the phasing in next year of emissions rules that will see carmakers fined if their total annual vehicle sales exceed an average carbon limit.

The French finance ministry has estimated its SUV penalty could yield 50 million euros a year in revenue for the government, which will be used to help carmakers shift to cleaner cars. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has also criticized SUV advertisements, saying they should warn consumers of the detrimental effects of the cars on the environment.