BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany should consider introducing binding quotas for electric cars for an automobile sector seeking to recover from a diesel emissions scandal and keep its place as a leading producer, deputy economy minister Matthias Machnig said on Monday.
The comments set up a possible policy clash with German carmakers, whose lobby group says it opposes such quotas.
Britain said last month it would ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 in an attempt to reduce air pollution. The global auto industry debate could one day herald the end of more than a century of reliance on the combustion engine.
"We want Germany to remain the top car country in the future," Machnig told Reuters, adding that issues like digitalization and new technologies in motors would decide who stays at the top of the game.
"That's why we should talk about a binding target to really get electromobility going in Europe and also in Germany," said Machnig, a member of the Social Democrats, junior coalition partners of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.
He added that the whole automobile industry faced a major upheaval that it would cope with using innovation.
Machnig was reacting to a report in German newspaper Handelsblatt that cited European Union sources as saying the European Commission wanted to accelerate the retreat from combustion engines by setting a quota for low emission cars such as electric cars from 2025.
But the European Union said on Monday it had no plans to introduce quotas for electric cars for an automobile sector seeking to recover from the Volkswagen diesel scandal.
"Generally speaking, the Commision is looking into ways to promote use of low carbon energy and transport but none of them includes quotas for electric cars," a spokeswoman for the EU executive said.
"We do not discriminate between different technologies," she added.
The Handelsblatt report said the sources believed a minimum sales level alongside stricter limits for C02 emissions were already part of measures to promote climate-friendly mobility that the Commission wants to present by the end of the year.
VDA auto industry lobby was quoted as saying: "We think such sales quotas are, in principle, the wrong choice."
A spokesman for the German transport ministry said on Monday he was not aware of any suggestions about introducing a quota for electric cars or other low emission cars in the medium term.
Speaking at a government news conference, he said the transport ministry wanted Germany to remain a top car producer but wanted to be open regarding the technology to enable that.
(Reporting by Gernot Heller in Berlin and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)