France tightens grip on polluting cars by ramping up eco taxes

The French government is going to start fining more owners of SUVs, big sedans and other oversized cars in a bid to dissuade the public from buying polluting vehicles.

France tightens grip on polluting cars by ramping up eco taxes
Photos: AFP

France’s government presented on Friday a new set of penalties for polluting cars circulating on the country’s roads.

The new fees are part of France's “bonus-malus écologique” which is an environmental tax system in France that sees drivers taxed more heavily according to how much CO2 pollution their vehicle emits.

As of January 1st 2019, SUV's (Sport utility vehicles), big sedans and other large cars will be slapped with penalties of between €50 to €10,500 depending on their polluting level, fines that in fact already exist.

The difference is that the emission threshold for cars will be lowered by 3 grams, from 120 to 117 grams of CO2 released per kilometer.

That means the number of cars penalized is likely to rise from the current 16.5 percent to 27.6 percent in 2019, unless there’s a considerable switchover to less polluting cars by the French public.

The average penalty fee will also almost triple from €50 to €145.

Vehicles that release 140g of CO2 per km will see owners having to cough up €1,050 in their next vehicle registration, €5,113 if it's 154g/km and €10,500 if it's 185g/km and over. 

For non-polluting vehicles, namely electric cars, the bonus system for 2019 has not yet been announced.

The measure – announced on Friday morning by Ecological Transition Minister Nicolas Hulot and Transport Minister Élisabeth Borne – is part of a draft law on transport and mobility.

“The new penalties are in line with technological improvements, and have been drafted with the approval of the entire industry,” said the Transport Minister.

“It will affect anyone who decides to buy a vehicle that’s more polluting than average.”

French authorities are planning a further reduction of the emissions threshold in the years to come, around 3 grams every year.

The aim is to make sure France’s fleet of approximately 40 million vehicles becomes progressively more and more environmentally friendly.

Which cars are most affected?

German carmaker Mercedes will continue to bear the brunt of France’s new eco taxes.

Over the first six months of 2018, its customers have already spent a total of €27.7 million for the privilege of driving one of their bigger polluting vehicle models.

Audi drivers also coughed up €21.3 million in eco taxes, Volkswagen € 19.7 million, BMW € 18.5 million and Porsche €17.5 million.

All in all France’s government has already pulled in €172 million in eco taxes.

By contrast Renault drivers benefited from €19.6 million in bonuses, thanks in particular to the French carmaker’s electric Zoe car.

Financial bonus rewards for green eco cars are believed to only benefit 1.3 percent of the car market at present.

It remains to be seen how the French government will change the bonus system for 2019, although the 2018 regulations will remain in force until the end of the year one way or another.

These see anyone who buys a new electric vehicle get up to €6,000 docked off the price when they register the vehicle and between €500 and €2,000 when going from a more polluting diesel or petrol vehicle to an eco one.

Find out if you’re eligible for an eco discount on your vehicle here.

Member comments

  1. Just another money making scam using pollution as an excuse. Pollution and terrorism have become Government bywords for making money.

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France sees 850 cars torched on Bastille Day but why do they do it?

The very French tradition of burning cars on the national July 14th holiday is very much alive and well with some 850 vehicles torched at the weekend, but where does this tradition come from?

France sees 850 cars torched on Bastille Day but why do they do it?
Burning cars is something of a tradition in France, albeit a much hated one. Photo: AFP

A total of 845 cars were torched across France on Friday and Saturday night, France’s Interior Ministry has reported.

Police have arrested 237 individuals, including 92 minors, for wreaking havoc in the Paris area, with 183 taken into custody.

In Montreuil in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis, a fifteen year old was arrested for carrying explosives in his backpack, which included fireworks, equipment to make a bomb, a bottle of acid, an empty plastic bottle and pieces of aluminum.

Two policemen suffered burns in a separate incident in Seine-Saint-Denis after three rioters threw Molotov cocktails at them. All of the attackers have been arrested, French TV channel LCI reported. 

In the department of Val-de-Marne south east of Paris, about 30 people tried to crash a firefighters' ball without going through security checks, then launching Molotov cocktails and other projectiles at the crowd and injuring four firefighters in the process. Four people have been remanded in custody. 

SEE ALSO: Looters, violence and road accidents tarnish World Cup party

Why do they burn cars in France again?

Burning cars is something of a tradition in France, albeit a much hated one by authorities and car owners.

Cars are often set ablaze whenever there is an outbreak of social disorder, as seen in the 2005 riots when hundreds of vehicles were torched.

But there are a few dates in the calendar year when the tradition is marked.

The most common torching dates are New Year’s Eve and in July and August, particularly on Bastille Day on July 14th when youths mark the annual fête nationale with their own firework shows.

“Vehicle fires are often associated with a context of riots and urban violence. It can also be a ‘game' to break the monotony, or it could be motivated by vengeance after a violent arrest. Or it could just be to get rid of a car used in a crime or as an insurance scam.” Christophe Schulz, of France's official crime data agency ONDRP, told Le Parisien newspaper.

The custom of setting vehicles alight on New Year's Eve reportedly began in the east of the country, around Strasbourg, in the 1990s, in the the city's poorer neighbourhoods.

'Resentment of the French identity'

It was then quickly adopted by youths in cities across the country.

French sociologist Michel Wieviorka said: “It should be noted that burning cars is not necessarily a militant act.

“It is first of all about showing one's anger and dissatisfaction, but also about asserting one's autonomy, one's ability to get out of the daily struggle. In the same way, we want to draw the attention of the media to say: “Me too, I exist … Me too, I party, my way.”

Gérard Mauger, a French sociologist from the CNRS think tank said the typical profile of those who burn vehicles is a youth, who has recently left school with no qualifications and little hope of finding work. They are drawn into the life of street gangs.

“The mass unemployment among young people without qualifications only favors the increase of this phenomenon [of burning vehicles],” said Mauger.

French criminologist Sebastian Roché says it's hard to analyse the burning of cars and the frequent attacks towards French police because those behind them rarely talk about their motives. However the fact they occur during national celebrations like July14th suggest their anger is a message to the state and a reflection of a “resentment against the French identity”.

“These are acts of delinquency,” said Roché.

“There is a desire on their part for conflict and destruction, whereas these celebrations should be the symbol of national unity,” he added;

“It is difficult to go much further in the analysis of these movements because their authors do not express specific claims. It is not a political movement or a demonstration, but these people want to express a rage and anger, so they attack symbolic events. “

Other analysts say one of the reasons why the custom continues is that the youths want the media attention on the number of cars burned in their suburb and are in a kind of competition with other neighbourhoods around France to see who can torch the most vehicles.

This was the reason previous government's in France have declined to reveal the number of vehicles burned for fear of stoking the problem.

In fact, this year there’s been a drop in the number of cars torched on France’s national day, down from 897 in 2017 to 845 in 2018. 

The ONDRP revealed in Januart that the number of cars burned each year has fallen by 20 percent since 2010.

FOCUS: What's behind the famous French tradition of torching cars?

The main reason for the fall according to the ONDRP is that the media take less interest now in the mass burning of cars, which means there may be less of a thrill for the arsonists.

Authorities have previously refrained from reporting on the number of torched cars on New Year's Eve after it was discovered that a district-by-district breakdown was fuelling destructive competition between rival gangs.

Added to that is that extra police are regularly deployed in sensitive areas on specific nights of the year to try to prevent the blazes.

The stats also showed that the departments most affected by the phenomenon were Haute-Corse in Corsica, Isere to the south east which includes Grenoble, and Oise, to the north of Paris.

Rural areas of France are much less affected than urban areas.

The car owners most affected are generally in the more hard-up neighbourhoods.